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
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(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. 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 |

      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


          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 |
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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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.