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Pope Francis hails Internet as gift from God

'Greater chance of meeting and solidarity,' pontiff says

23 January, 18:36
Pope Francis hails Internet as gift from God (By Denis Greenan).

(ANSA) - Vatican City, January 23 - The Internet is "a gift from God", Pope Francis said Thursday.

"The Internet can offer greater possibilities of meeting and solidarity for all, and that is a good thing, it's a gift from God," Francis said in his message for the Catholic Church's World Communications Day this summer.

The media "can help us feel closer to one another," the pontiff said, adding that "communicating well helps us to be more united".

The media-savvy pope, whose humble and friendly manner has won countless fans since he replaced Pope Benedict in March, has embraced the Web and has more than 11 million Twitter followers.

Engaging in dialogue does not mean renouncing our own ideas and traditions, but the claim that they alone are valid or absolute, Francis went on.

"To dialogue means to believe that the 'other' has something worthwhile to say, and to entertain his or her point of view and perspective," he said.

But the pontiff warned against "aggressive" media that blind people to those around them.

"Whenever communication is primarily aimed at promoting consumption or manipulating others, we are dealing with a form of violent aggression like that suffered by the (Good Samaritan), who was beaten by robbers and left abandoned on the road", said the pope in the message.

"Nowadays there is a danger that certain media so condition our responses that we fail to see our real neighbour," he continued.

"The world of media also has to be concerned with humanity, it too is called to show tenderness," added the Argentine pope who has made a very human touch the hallmark of his pontificate since his election to replace Benedict, the first pope to quit in 700 years.

"The digital world can be an environment rich in humanity; a network not of wires but of people," he said.

Returning to criticism of modern capitalism that leaves too many behind, the pope called on the world's media to help bridge the 'scandalous' divide between rich and poor.

"On the global level we see a scandalous gap between the opulence of the wealthy and the utter destitution of the poor," he said.

Francis has taken every opportunity to draw attention to the plight of the world's poor since his election to replace Benedict XVI following his abdication last February.

He has called unbridled capitalism a "new tyranny" that is crushing the lives of people around the world through an "economy of exclusion and inequality" In the message released Thursday Francis said: "Our world suffers from many forms of exclusion, marginalization and poverty, to say nothing of conflicts born of a combination of economic, political, ideological, and, sadly, even religious motives". "In a world like this, media can help us to feel closer to one another, creating a sense of the unity of the human family which can in turn inspire solidarity and serious efforts to ensure a more dignified life for all," said Francis.

"Communication at the service of an authentic culture of encounter" is the theme of the Church's celebration of World Communications Day, which most dioceses will mark June 1, the Sunday before Pentecost. The pope's message for the day was released ahead of January 24, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, the patron saint of journalists.