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Pope: The Internet is a 'gift from God.' But watch out for the trolls
Pope Francis addressed digital technology and social communications on Thursday.
January 23rd, 2014
10:40 AM ET

Pope: The Internet is a 'gift from God.' But watch out for the trolls

By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor

(CNN) Careerist clergy. The super rich. And now we can add another pelt to Pope Francis' collection: Internet trolls.

In statement released on Thursday, the Pope said the Internet and social media are making people across the world "increasingly interdependent."

"The Internet, in particular, offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity," Francis said. "This is something truly good, a gift from God."

At the same time, though, all those tweets and texts and comment streams can cause people to "lose our bearings," said the 77-year-old pontiff.

"The speed with which information is communicated exceeds our capacity for reflection and judgement, and this does not make for more balanced and proper forms of self-expression," Francis said.

"The variety of opinions being aired can be seen as helpful," he continued, "but it also enables people to barricade themselves behind sources of information which only confirm their own wishes and ideas, or political and economic interests."

There's a tinge of irony to the Pope's comments, considering that his own soaring popularity can be partially traced to the Internet and social media. According to a study released in November, Francis was the most talked about person online last year.

MORE ON CNN: Pope Francis won the Internet. Literally.

Whether consciously or not, the Pope has become an unlikely poster boy for how stories spread in the modern world.

Photos and videos of him washing the feet of Muslim inmates, embracing a severely disfigured man and giving his pal a lift on the Popemobile have gone viral, with hundreds of thousands sharing the images.

MORE ON CNN: Pope Francis' greatest hits of 2013

"Goodness always tends to spread," Francis said in his apostolic exhortation, "The Joy of the Gospel," a line that could have been uttered in the boardrooms of savvy online outlets like Upworthy and BuzzFeed.

But the Pope's theory of communication seems to derive from a more ancient source: his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi.

"Preach the Gospel all the time. Use words when necessary," the 13th century friar is often quoted as saying. (Some call the quote apocryphal.)

Rather than "bombarding people with religious messages," the Pope urged Catholics on Thursday to listen patiently and engage their interlocutors' doubts and questions.

"Let our communication be a balm which relieves pain and a fine wine which gladdens hearts," Francis said.

The Pope also warned against spending too much time online, saying  the "desire for digital connectivity" can sometimes isolate people from their friends, family and neighbors.

“It is not enough to be passers-by on the digital highways, simply 'connected'; connections need to grow into true encounters," he said.

"We cannot live apart, closed in on ourselves. We need to love and to be loved. We need tenderness. Media strategies do not ensure beauty, goodness and truth in communication."

Drawbacks aside, the Pope did not argue that people should reject social media, which he said can foster unity and "help us feel closer to each other."

Instead he argued that advances in bits and bytes shouldn't distract from the fact that digital communication is, at root, about people connecting with each other.

"What is it, then, that helps us, in the digital environment, to grow in humanity and mutual understanding?" the Pope asked.

"We need, for example, to recover a certain sense of deliberateness and calm. This calls for time and the ability to be silent and to listen. We need also to be patient if we want to understand those who are different from us."

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Catholic Church • Faith Now • Internet • Pope Francis

soundoff (2,371 Responses)
  1. litwell

    Reblogged this on YourReligion and commented:
    The leader of the one of the largest Christian denominations recognizes the potential of the internet.

    March 21, 2014 at 11:02 am |
  2. desertvoice

    Trolls are the worst pests on the Internet, starting with those paid by the gay lobby and anti-Catholic lobbies!

    February 10, 2014 at 4:34 am |
  3. desertvoice

    Trolls are the greatest pest on the internet! You speak what is good for humanity. They viciously turn against your person! The worst are those trolls either paid by the media outlets, like the gay lobby at CNN, or those simply amateurs working for evil lobbies of their choice. I have noticed that the most vicious trolls are those who deny the existence of GoD!

    February 10, 2014 at 4:32 am |
  4. creationist evolutionary

    the creation of the universe happened after the big bang ,so I believe in the creation of everything,then everything evolved after that,stars,galaxies,planets and everything after that including humans,so I also believe in evolution,so whats the fuzz about the theist and the atheist when they just complement each other.What they are debating is idiosyncracy

    February 5, 2014 at 6:17 am |
  5. panthrotheist

    in panthrotheism,all religions are man made,because they all came into reality in their own assigned times ,places and conditions,They are and will be Willed by God,The God the father,the self creating God of the Big Bang.therefore He guided all these religions for a purpose beyond our comprehension at this point of our intelligence and consccience developement.We are still evolving to a higher level through His Will which is reflected in absolutely all events in history,There will come a stage of our development in the future that again we will have to improve our religion's dogma and doctrines to conform with our scientific times.The change process is because of the principle of Dynamic Dogmatism.This privilege or responsibility to change or chart our history is Ours because as an absolute part of God since the beginning we share the same destiny.

    February 3, 2014 at 10:12 am |
    • toquide

      the arrogance of those who think God does not exist is beyond my comprehension,but since God is all knowing i be
      ieve he tolerated it for a profound reason.

      February 4, 2014 at 8:31 pm |
    • curious

      in panthrotheism what is the reward for believing in that faith,is their life after death?

      February 4, 2014 at 8:38 pm |
      • marxist

        "religion is the opiate of the people" but opium has also a medical use to alleviate pain and suffering ,today religion is more than medication ,its the reality of survival.We need a peacefull and modern way of implementing the tenets of marxism without resorting to violent revolution.

        February 4, 2014 at 9:02 pm |
        • toquide

          we dont need Marx ideas ,what we need therefore is a religion whose doctrine parallels it.is it panthrotheism?

          February 4, 2014 at 9:18 pm |
  6. Universe

    Quran says (Islamic Scripture)

    “They say , "We live only this life; we will not be resurrected. If you could only see them when they stand before their Lord! He would say, "Is this not the truth?" They would say, "Yes, by our Lord." He would say, "You have incurred the retribution by your disbelief." [6:30]

    “The example of Jesus, as far as GOD is concerned, is the same as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him, "Be," and he was.” Quran [3:59]

    “It does not befit God that He begets a son, be He glorified. To have anything done, He simply says to it, "Be," and it is.” [19:35]

    “No soul can carry the sins of another soul. If a soul that is loaded with sins implores another to bear part of its load, no other soul can carry any part of it, even if they were related. ... [35:18]

    “They even attribute to Him sons and daughters, without any knowledge. Be He glorified. He is the Most High, far above their claims.” Quran [6:100]

    “Recall that your Lord said to the angels, "I am placing a representative on Earth." They said, "Will You place therein one who will spread evil therein and shed blood, while we sing Your praises, glorify You, and uphold Your absolute authority?" He said, "I know what you do not know." [2:30]

    Thanks for taking time to read my post. Please take a moment to visit whyIslam org website.

    January 30, 2014 at 1:15 pm |
    • MAGIC ISNT REAL

      islam is the #1 terrorist organization in the world, no exceptions.

      Any religion started by a paedophile has zero moral ground.

      January 30, 2014 at 4:21 pm |
    • panthrotheist

      i felt sorry for the post of someone who insulted Islam,they dont understand the panthrotheistic philosophy of respecting all religions when they are all Gods will,but ultimately in the future they will be enlightened when this transistion will happen.

      February 4, 2014 at 8:20 pm |
  7. Lana

    January 30, 2014 at 11:37 am |
  8. "Sleepy" Slade Baroni

    Um internet is a gift from man. Pope is clearly delusional.

    January 27, 2014 at 1:02 pm |
  9. Alias

    I'm still trying to decide if I should thank god or bad parenting for all the free porn.

    January 27, 2014 at 12:27 pm |
    • Happy Atheist

      Maybe thank God FOR bad parenting?...

      January 27, 2014 at 5:59 pm |
  10. No Evidence

    Watch out for the trolls?? how about watch out for deluded religious nut jobs!

    January 27, 2014 at 11:47 am |
    • doobzz

      Actually, the pope never mentions trolls. That's something the author projected onto his statements.

      January 27, 2014 at 12:34 pm |
      • Alias

        Actually, the pope never mentioned deluded religious nut jobs either.

        January 27, 2014 at 12:49 pm |
        • No Evidence

          Duh!

          January 27, 2014 at 4:00 pm |
      • No Evidence

        Actually, that's the ti-tle of the article...

        January 27, 2014 at 4:02 pm |
  11. You

    The Pope has a Benny Hinn thing going on it that photo.

    January 27, 2014 at 7:34 am |
    • Science Works

      OH sh!t the devil from ther internet is on my tail !

      A dove which was freed by children flanked by Pope Francis during the Angelus prayer, is chased by a black crow in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014.  AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia

      January 27, 2014 at 8:45 am |
  12. Free post-holiday mixed nuts


    January 26, 2014 at 8:30 pm |
  13. Austin

    hey , was your day today a subjective experience, or an objective experience.

    January 26, 2014 at 7:52 pm |
    • Ernie

      it was subjective till 12:30 PM EST, then I turned the switch 180 degrees.

      January 26, 2014 at 7:54 pm |
    • Science Works

      A positive one !

      January 26, 2014 at 7:54 pm |
    • Austin

      1objective.

      (of a person or their judgment) not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts.

      January 26, 2014 at 8:01 pm |
      • Austin

        can the Holy Spirit be an objective experience?

        January 26, 2014 at 8:03 pm |
        • Doris

          Austin: "can the Holy Spirit be an objective experience?"

          Interesting question.

          I've not seen anyone prove such or even demonstrate in a reasonable way to anyone else that they have had a purely objective experience. So I think it's possible, highly unlikely, and, at least at this time, very difficult to verify. If an experience registered in our brain is separate from others having a simultaneous perception (where it can somehow be shared without subjectivity and be somehow verified), then should we assume that we understand the full power (fires, misfires, etc.) of our brain enough to fully understand what we think has happened?

          January 26, 2014 at 9:44 pm |
        • Dandintac

          No, it is strictly subjective, because it occurs only in the human mind. It cannot be demonstrated, tested or measured in any way.

          This is actually a good question, because too many people do not understand what subjective and objective mean. A good clue is to look at the root words. Is it an idea with no actual object to sense and measure? That's subjective. Beauty, justice, and morality are subjective. For some of these things, they are subjective conceptually, but we can set objective standards. Ontologically though, they remain inherently subjective.

          "Objective" is that which we can reasonably infer would exist whether a human existed or not. That which is objective is MEASURABLE. It should usually have dimensions. Is it a rock, a chair, a tree, the sun? Those are all objective.

          People have come to think of "subjective" as bad, flawed, and invalid, and "objective" as always good and important. This is the wrong way to see things. Also, people tend to reify. That is, think of something that is actually subjective, and think of it and claim it to be objective.

          It's good to remember that just because something is subjective, that does not mean it is unimportant. Beauty is important, and subjective. So is justice. They are real, but in a subjective sense. They are human ideas. It's also good to know the difference between subjective and objective.

          January 27, 2014 at 10:12 pm |
      • G to the T

        Keep in mind that "objective" vs "subjective" can also be used to distiguish between things that only exist in our head (subjective) vs those in the "real" world around us "objective". That being said, we can never be truly objective or know the objective world w/ 100% accuracy so for all practical purposes all knowledge is subjective.

        January 27, 2014 at 10:10 am |
    • ME II

      The events were objective.
      The experience was subjective.

      January 26, 2014 at 10:06 pm |
  14. why guy

    he was god almighty. GOD! IMAGINE!

    January 26, 2014 at 7:10 pm |
    • Austin

      lot of people in Sunday night service tonight.

      January 26, 2014 at 7:12 pm |
    • doobzz

      Yes, George Burns was quite the comedian.

      January 27, 2014 at 12:48 pm |
  15. truthprevails100

    t "The resurrection of Jesus is the central point of the Christian religion." but dodo, lundie is your hero

    January 26, 2014 at 6:53 pm |
    • Saraswati

      Without the resurection story Jesus' followers lost all credibility and their way of life. They had invested everything in this story. The very small number of people who were allowed by a supposedly all-powerful being to see this evidence is the most convincing evidence against the validity of the story. If this god were really powerful and wanted people to believe, he would have provided a heck of a lot more evidence. As it is this looks like just another case of a group of duped people who lost their leader and had to pull together a story to keep things going. They did a pretty good job as it turns out.

      January 26, 2014 at 8:46 pm |
      • Tom, Tom, the Other One

        Pentecost should have been impressive, but either people were unimpressed or were not moved to write about it.

        January 26, 2014 at 9:12 pm |
        • TOM AND JERRY

          ONE OF THE THREE GREAT IDIOTS OF ALL TIME, "Pentecost should have been impressive, but either people were unimpressed or were not moved to write about it." Tom tom the who else. I I I, UH, I, UH, OH, wait. She did not say that. i'm dreamin

          January 28, 2014 at 1:01 am |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          Hold on. Picked up something nasty on my shoe... Maybe it'll scrape off. People really need to clean up after their pets here.

          January 28, 2014 at 2:38 am |
      • danthehammanboogie

        "Without the resurection story Jesus' followers lost all credibility and their way of life." pharisee

        wrong again. what way of life? moron. not a nice try, dodo.

        so, agreed, point being- they made up stories that some crucified dude got raised from dead to achieve credibility! it is a true miracle that you are this dumb

        January 28, 2014 at 12:55 am |
        • Saraswati

          Wow...you really need to reread what I wrote and consider some remedial education.

          January 28, 2014 at 7:11 am |
        • jason kirk

          Typical atheist response: name calling, angst, and anger but rarely any rational logic that considers a meaningful dialogue and exchange. It's difficult to carry on a conversation with people who hide behind their anonymous or fictional avatar/user name because then they feel they have license to not be civil with others, which is a shame because everyone misses out on an opportunity to think and/or learn more. Different worldviews reflect different presuppositions about reality, ethics/morality, and knowledge. One worldview places God as the pinnacle of the universe; the other worldview places man and empiricism as the crowning achievement.

          February 6, 2014 at 3:07 pm |
    • jason kirk

      Truthprevails100...I recognize the tenor and tone of your posts from other websites and blogs you frequent. I challenge YOU to prove that God does not exist. Can you do it without hurling invectives, hate, and name-calling?

      February 6, 2014 at 2:59 pm |
  16. truthprevails100

    t "The resurrection of Jesus is the central point of the Christian religion."

    January 26, 2014 at 6:52 pm |
    • Science Works

      finding the central point of religion in general is like finding a corner in around room .

      January 26, 2014 at 6:56 pm |
      • notdodo

        dodo, it's not nice to criticize real scholars

        January 26, 2014 at 7:01 pm |
  17. truthprevails100

    William Lane Craig
    I agree, in Lüdemann’s words, that "The resurrection of Jesus is the central point of the Christian religion."

    January 26, 2014 at 6:50 pm |
    • G to the T

      So Paul and his followers would have us believe. Too bad really...

      January 27, 2014 at 10:33 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.