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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 Religion Editor

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

soundoff (2,371 Responses)
  1. Melissa

    Last I looked, it was humans that built the internet, not a deity. Therefore it is NOT a gift from any deity.

    January 23, 2014 at 2:47 pm |
    • Fiona

      Last I checked, humans didnt come into existence by themselves.....Just saying

      January 23, 2014 at 2:50 pm |
      • Mmmmmmm

        Are you saying a deity invented the net? Which one? There are so many.

        January 23, 2014 at 2:53 pm |
        • brian m

          the one deity that created the infinite deities.
          the one deity that also created Mmmmmmm

          January 23, 2014 at 2:59 pm |
        • Mmmmmmm

          My mom and dad are deities?

          January 23, 2014 at 3:10 pm |
        • Trollier than Thou

          Maybe he prays to Bill Gates.

          January 23, 2014 at 3:56 pm |
      • BRC

        I don't know that the advanced primate form that humans evolved from is really due that much credit for the internet. I think we can claim this one pretty solidly.

        January 23, 2014 at 2:56 pm |
      • CommonSensed

        Interesting – either a) you believe they evolved as evidence suggests or you're about to quote a book about how a deity created them. Would you be willing to pony up which one?

        January 23, 2014 at 2:56 pm |
      • doobzz

        Of course they didn't. It was mud and fairy spit that made man.

        January 23, 2014 at 3:22 pm |
      • Hugh Jass

        " humans didnt come into existence by themselves" I was created by my mom and dad, for example. Apparently a few people here today were actually made by God! I sure would like to see the proof of that.

        January 23, 2014 at 4:16 pm |
        • G to the T

          The trick is to check for a belly button...

          January 24, 2014 at 2:12 pm |
    • brian m

      if man builds a robot and man programs that robot to build a car, do we say the car is "man made" or "robot made"?

      if god creates man and man creates the internet, do we say the internet is "man made" or a "divine creation"?

      January 23, 2014 at 2:58 pm |
    • kevin

      How about... "a gift from the parents who gave birth to the humans who built the internet?" I'm just trying to see if you ever contemplate causality that is deeper than the surface.

      January 23, 2014 at 2:58 pm |
    • Doug

      Gee, thanks for clearing that up, Melissa. You, obviously, are not a gift from God either.

      January 23, 2014 at 3:03 pm |
  2. Quip

    "Pope: The Internet is a 'gift from God.' But beware of trolls"

    Looks like the pope is very familiar with the "belief blog" 😉

    January 23, 2014 at 2:46 pm |
  3. sly

    "Both have a messed up desire to rule. Atheists want ALL religions gone and radical Muslims want ALL but theirs gone. There's really no difference."
    ====
    Ho ho ho ... athiests couldn't give a sh-t about you holy rollers. Y'all can stand around airports all day chanting Hari Hari Jesus and we just look at you like we look at wacked homeless folks talkin' gibberish.

    Muslims? Come on man – all you godsters are 99% identical. Muslims are good folks, most Christians and Jews and Hari's also.

    January 23, 2014 at 2:44 pm |
    • Mmmmmmm

      All he has proved is that in addition to being a hypocrite, he is also a religious bigot. Shocking, I know.

      January 23, 2014 at 2:47 pm |
    • Hugh Jass

      I think when they prattle like that, they are talking to people that they hope will be inspired to vote for fundamentalist candidates. They certainly aren't talking to the sane people. What kind of nut would think that not believing in something means you are all about that thing? I don't believe in unicorns, and I am not a member of an anti-unicorn movement.

      January 23, 2014 at 4:20 pm |
      • sly

        You don't believe in Unicorns? Seriously?

        Then how did humans get here?

        Wow ... all sorts on this blog.

        January 23, 2014 at 5:04 pm |
  4. joe

    To which Al Gore said "You're Welcome."

    January 23, 2014 at 2:41 pm |
    • CommonSensed

      Isn't that John Hodgman.

      January 23, 2014 at 2:42 pm |
  5. SPI

    From god well no wonder it cost money, slow and takes forever, crashes. Here I was blaming Time Warner and Micro Soft.

    January 23, 2014 at 2:37 pm |
  6. ShawnDH

    People created the internet.

    January 23, 2014 at 2:35 pm |
    • CommonSensed

      They also created the various gods. Maybe that's what he was getting at.

      January 23, 2014 at 2:41 pm |
  7. DaTrufHurts

    I thought it was a gift form Al Gore...

    January 23, 2014 at 2:33 pm |
    • Doug

      Yes, Al Gore gave us the internet... and the Republican party gave us the trolls.

      January 23, 2014 at 3:05 pm |
      • Trollier than Thou

        Should I be insulted that you think I voted for Romney? Or flattered that you think I voted. 😉

        January 23, 2014 at 3:52 pm |
  8. Mopery

    Maybe stop telling people in AIDS stricken Africa to not use condoms...

    January 23, 2014 at 2:30 pm |
    • CommonSensed

      Can't do it. Part of the program. Contraceptives limit progeny which become the flock. Can't do that – money would dry up.

      January 23, 2014 at 2:33 pm |
      • doobzz

        The part I can't figure out is how he thinks having millions of HIV positive orphans helps anyone.

        January 23, 2014 at 3:25 pm |
  9. donna

    Technology is merely a product of human evolution...nothing more, nothing less.

    January 23, 2014 at 2:29 pm |
    • Fiona

      And what are humans a product of?

      January 23, 2014 at 2:52 pm |
      • CommonSensed

        Se.xual reproduction.

        January 23, 2014 at 2:58 pm |
        • yellownumber5

          Ergo s.exual reproduction created the internet. No wonder there is so much pr0n on it.

          January 23, 2014 at 3:14 pm |
      • Nathan

        The natural processes of evolution.

        January 23, 2014 at 3:11 pm |
      • doobzz

        Oooh, let me guess!! Dirt and god spit!

        Did I win?

        January 23, 2014 at 3:34 pm |
      • donna

        Early humans or "the first known evidence of humankind", or present humans who have advanced technology to include the internet?

        January 23, 2014 at 3:42 pm |
  10. Matt Giarmo

    Apparently he hasn't heard of cyber-stalking, defamation, spam, nude pic revenge, and the effects of job portals on the chronically unemployed. Oh well, no one expects the Pope to be smart.

    January 23, 2014 at 2:25 pm |
    • Trudy

      Funny Daniel writes this story when most of CNNs blogs are being disbanned... and rightfully so!

      😀

      January 23, 2014 at 3:29 pm |
  11. darknesscrown

    The internets is a series of TUBES! #science

    January 23, 2014 at 2:25 pm |
    • BRC

      And those tubes are full of cats.

      January 23, 2014 at 3:07 pm |
  12. Sam M

    Pope: "The Internet is a miracle from God". Big Al Gore: "I invented the internet". Logical conclusion: Big Al Gore is God.

    January 23, 2014 at 2:22 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Does that make Carbon Credits the environmentalist equivalent to a Papal Indulgence?
      The Earth is getting warmer! AlGoremageddon is nigh!

      January 23, 2014 at 2:25 pm |
    • Happy Atheist

      Al Gore actually said "Durning my service in the United States Congress I took the initltive in creating the internet, I took the initltive in moving forward a whole range of initltives that have proven important to our countries economic growth..."

      I know it's hard for people with IQ's only in the double digits to understand his poorly chosen words, but clearly anyone can see that Al Gore did not say "I invented the internet".

      January 23, 2014 at 2:38 pm |
      • sly

        Please, do not try to reason with members of the Confederate Party. Brains are not their strong points, and most of them are still whining about President Obama's birth certificate or about the fool in Libya who croaked because 3 times he refused to let the State Dept increase security at his embassy.

        January 23, 2014 at 2:50 pm |
  13. Doc Vestibule

    Ubiquitous instant, global communication is revealing to the world the truth of moral relativism.
    It is chipping away at divise, tribalist mentalities by letting people from different cultures from every corner of the globe research other worldviews and engage directly with those who have different opinions.

    January 23, 2014 at 2:21 pm |
  14. sly

    This fella seems pretty simple minded, maybe a touch senile.

    Old age I guess. Happens to all of us.

    January 23, 2014 at 2:21 pm |
  15. doobzz

    Oh, look! Another immaculate conception! Only this time, no one believes her.

    http://www.allvoices.com/contributed-news/16380243-nun-who-gave-birth-to-baby-boy-identified-as-roxana-rodriguez?utm_campaign=Outbrain&utm_source=Outbrain2Cents

    January 23, 2014 at 2:04 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      It's a male too. Where did that pesky Y-chromosome come from this time?

      January 23, 2014 at 2:15 pm |
      • Austin

        God, Adam, Noah, Abraham

        Jacob, Moses David Jesus.. ect

        January 23, 2014 at 2:19 pm |
        • doobzz

          None of whom have a shred of evidence for their existence.

          January 23, 2014 at 5:41 pm |
        • G to the T

          God had a "Y" chromosome? Now that's a theology I haven't heard outside the Mormons!

          January 24, 2014 at 12:10 pm |
        • Boastgusters

          Austin,

          "ect"? Ectoplasm?

          Or did you mean "etc." for ET Cetera?

          January 24, 2014 at 12:15 pm |
      • doobzz

        Yeah, funny thing, that tiny, weak little Y-chromosome.

        January 23, 2014 at 3:07 pm |
    • Alias

      just wait. as soon as he raises the dead and floods the world we will all believe, but it will be too late.

      January 23, 2014 at 2:21 pm |
      • CommonSensed

        I think Odin will at least give us some warning, don't you?

        January 23, 2014 at 2:30 pm |
        • Austin

          satan fell , he was created by Christ, and Satan began false religion. He knew there would be a resurrection. Caan killed abel and wham.......baal appeared. that was satan. and so are myths of odin and zeus.

          January 23, 2014 at 2:35 pm |
        • CommonSensed

          Uh huh…and when did Buddha, cthulhu, all of the Indian gods, etc. appear?

          January 23, 2014 at 2:52 pm |
      • doobzz

        LOL.

        January 23, 2014 at 3:07 pm |
  16. Jesus was a Space Alien

    I like the new pope, however, the internet was a gift from government (ARPANET) research and tested at Stanford in the late 60's and early 70's. The WWW was invented by Tim Berners-Lee. So are they really gifts from god? Who knows but it sure is miraculous.

    January 23, 2014 at 2:04 pm |
    • A traveler

      Stanford did contribute but they built upon the stuff Project Genie invented at CAL. None-the-less, this is as (historically) crazy as claiming that the lightning rod was "god given" as well. It was not. Indeed, organized religion mocked those protecting their buildings with lightning rods (while the church steeples kept getting hit and bursting into flame).

      January 23, 2014 at 2:12 pm |
      • A Raveler

        The lightning rod may not have been God given, but the lightning was! All hail Zeus!

        January 23, 2014 at 2:31 pm |
        • Austin

          thats Dagon worship. Dagon was the center of attention in Nineveh, Nimrod, and the sign of Jonah was a true thing.

          January 23, 2014 at 2:36 pm |
        • In Santa we trust

          Be patriotic. Thunderbird surely!

          January 23, 2014 at 3:01 pm |
  17. Observer

    If Jesus had told us about this "gift", the lives of BILLIONS and BILLIONS of people would have been better and history might have even changed. But that's asking too much of God.

    January 23, 2014 at 2:01 pm |
    • CommonSensed

      Asking for any evidence whatsoever is too, apparently.

      January 23, 2014 at 2:28 pm |
  18. sly

    The internet is from God? Well, I guess everytihng is then.

    Osama Bin Laden and Hitler were also gifts from God then ...

    Gee ... such an intelligent conversation point. This man wearing the white dress sure says some bright things huh?

    January 23, 2014 at 1:59 pm |
  19. Truth Rules

    "This is something truly good, a gift from God." What? What? You mean that Al Gore didn't... WTH???

    January 23, 2014 at 1:59 pm |
  20. Peter

    I don't mind atheist trolls. Especially when they go on a rant. It just means that religion has gotten to them so much that they have to resort to anonymous attacks on good people. And that makes me laugh.
    Besides, there isn't really much difference between atheists and theists. Both will die and neither knows for sure what will happen next. The only difference is one will be crapping their pants before they die and the other will crap their pants after..

    January 23, 2014 at 1:54 pm |
    • Mmmmmmm

      I don't mind the Christian trolls who do the same thing. Comedy gold, and I like to laugh.

      January 23, 2014 at 1:57 pm |
      • Peter

        Who said I was a Christian?

        January 23, 2014 at 1:59 pm |
        • Somebody's attractive cousin

          Who said he said you were a Christian?

          January 23, 2014 at 2:02 pm |
    • Mopery

      Actually both will crap their pants after they die, it's what bodies do postmortem, but looking forward to death when there's no evidence for anything beyond this life is insanity. Just another death cult, nothing new.

      January 23, 2014 at 1:59 pm |
      • Somebody's attractive cousin

        [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f49A89Yqhlw&w=640&h=360]

        January 23, 2014 at 2:03 pm |
      • Peter

        Atheist won't. They will have already crapped their pants right before they die.

        January 23, 2014 at 2:04 pm |
        • Observer

          Peter,

          You WISH. Just your OPINION. ZERO facts to back It up.

          January 23, 2014 at 2:10 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Personally, I can't wait to be slain on the field of battle.
      I hear the mead in Valhalla is excellent.
      Plus, unlimited pork from a magical pig!

      January 23, 2014 at 2:06 pm |
      • Mopery

        Hail the fallen!

        January 23, 2014 at 2:31 pm |
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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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.