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
[twitter-follow screen_name='BurkeCNN']

(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. Mary

    If higher dimensions are strange places, then why can't their strangeness be reflected in strange goings-on in this dimension?

    January 25, 2014 at 11:14 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Higher dimensions have been employed by physicists to explain strange goings on in this world – like gravity.

      January 25, 2014 at 11:20 am |
    • igaftr

      Higher dimensions? Higher indocates a position, and since everything is relative, there are no "higher" dimensions, no "higher" power....other dimensions...not higher.

      Start by getting a degree in quantum physics, and then you will begin to understand.

      January 25, 2014 at 11:23 am |
      • Mary

        If you're so smart, why can't you answer the question yourself, instead of passing the buck?

        January 25, 2014 at 11:27 am |
        • igaftr

          For the answer to your question, you would need a background in the subject, likely four years of it, not nearly enough room on a blog for the answer.

          Short answer...what makes you think the other dimensions are not interacting with ours? It is extremely likely they are, and even possible the dimensions touched in a strange way causing the Big Bang...so like I said, you want an answer to that...go takes classes.

          January 25, 2014 at 11:34 am |
    • bostontola

      The 5th Dimension made some enjoyable music in our dimension(s).

      January 25, 2014 at 11:24 am |
    • tony

      Dimensions are just the directions we have found that anything in this universe can move in.

      Forwards and back, left to right and back, up and down. Just like the 3 edges of a cube running from a corner. If you can find another way to travel without going partway along one of those dimensions, get on the phone to the National Physics Laboratory and you will become famous.

      Mathematics can work on speculation of other extra dimensions, and calculate lots of supposed effects, but it's all just conjecture for us 3 dimensional beasts. However, lots of scienene fiction writers and spiritualists write about the 4th dimension, ( and "astral planes" as if they exist, as a way of getting around invisibly and instantly as though by magic.

      Mkake for nice fairy stories. Don't believe it until you see you long dead great grandpa walk thru your bedroom wall and say Hi.

      January 25, 2014 at 12:06 pm |
      • Cpt. Obvious

        What is your answer for the problem of how weak gravity is in relation to the other three fundamental forces? I agree with the leading consensus among physicists: that gravity is not bound to this dimension as the other three are and so it is much weaker. Do you have any better ideas? If so, I would like to consider them.

        January 25, 2014 at 12:34 pm |
        • bostontola

          No one has the answer to that question as of yet, but I like to guess while we're waiting. Of course if gravity were in the strength class of the others, this universe would not have formed (and hence we self aware life wouldn't have emerged to ask the question). I think the extra dimensions are there to make those other forces more like gravity, i.e. they are needed to make the math work tying them to spacetime warping.

          January 25, 2014 at 12:49 pm |
    • tallulah13

      No matter how appealing do not let strange creature in you house. We all know strange creatures are on the increase. Many of them do seem furry and adorable, but beware we don't know from whence they came. Be safe. Be safe. Report strange incidences today.

      January 25, 2014 at 1:26 pm |
  2. bostontola

    I wonder if Jesus had full godly faculties as an infant. Did he just act like a baby to make everyone relate to him as a human? When did he acquire the awareness of a god?

    January 25, 2014 at 11:05 am |
    • doobzz

      I wonder if he just laid there waiting when he pooped his diaper or if he sent Mary telepathic messages that he needed changing.

      I don't even want to speculate about the breastfeeding.

      January 25, 2014 at 11:29 am |
    • tony

      Pooh Bear Tea

      January 25, 2014 at 12:30 pm |
  3. Mary

    Why are there atoms in Internet computers?

    January 25, 2014 at 10:55 am |
    • igaftr

      Don't trust atoms...they make up everything.

      January 25, 2014 at 11:02 am |
      • bostontola

        Always keep an ion them.

        January 25, 2014 at 11:08 am |
        • igaftr

          What did the electron say to the positron?

          I don't mean to always be so negative...

          January 25, 2014 at 11:21 am |
        • bostontola

          Sadly, neither of them found the neutron attractive.

          January 25, 2014 at 11:28 am |
      • Science Works

        Atoms create the asses for Sunday mass .

        January 25, 2014 at 11:14 am |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Because a big invisible sky wizard chanted magic spells for six days to make a perfect universe that was so fragile one twist of one woman's wrist threw the whole thing into nuclear meltdown of "corruptibility?"

      I could be wrong, I guess.

      January 25, 2014 at 11:10 am |
  4. Al

    I knew it! I've always thought that the free po.rn must have come from a higher power.

    January 25, 2014 at 10:29 am |
  5. Free post-holiday nuts


    January 25, 2014 at 9:04 am |
    • Could that be

      fred in the Video ?

      January 25, 2014 at 9:38 am |
    • Free post-holiday nuts

      It's the same person that had a video link on cnn main page who performs excorcisms over Skype now.

      January 25, 2014 at 9:57 am |
      • Free post-holiday nuts


        January 25, 2014 at 9:58 am |
    • doobzz

      The still shot is a little creepy. That guy in the back looks like he "surprised" the guy in the middle with something.

      I thought Zed was dead.

      January 25, 2014 at 11:36 am |
  6. Ponyboy Garfunkel

    I don't wish to sound ungrateful, big guy, but can we exchange our internet access for a cure for cancer?

    January 25, 2014 at 8:21 am |
  7. Reality #2

    Dear Francis, Part VI

    origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482 NY Times review and important enough to reiterate.

    New Torah For Modern Minds

    “Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. (prob•a•bly
    Adverb: Almost certainly; as far as one knows or can tell).

    The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

    Such startling propositions - the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years - have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity - until now.

    The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine doc-ument.

    The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis," observed David Wolpe, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a contributor to "Etz Hayim." But some congregants, he said, "may not like the stark airing of it." Last Passover, in a sermon to 2,200 congregants at his synagogue, Rabbi Wolpe frankly said that "virtually every modern archaeologist" agrees "that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all." The rabbi offered what he called a "LITANY OF DISILLUSION”' about the narrative, including contradictions, improbabilities, chronological lapses and the absence of corroborating evidence. In fact, he said, archaeologists digging in the Sinai have "found no trace of the tribes of Israel - not one shard of pottery."

    January 25, 2014 at 7:59 am |
  8. Science Works

    OK from CBS science tab NO mention of trolls ?

    AP January 23, 2014, 11: 55 AM
    Pope Francis: Internet is a "gift from God"


    January 25, 2014 at 7:07 am |
    • Science Works

      Wow paragraph from the AP article ? do not see this anywhere above ?

      In comments that will likely rile the more conservative wing of the church, Francis suggested that in engaging in that dialogue, Catholics shouldn't be arrogant in insisting that they alone possess the truth.

      January 25, 2014 at 7:21 am |
      • Charm Quark

        Windy morning here Science Works.
        Pope Francis is an example of a rational Christian that is so lacking on this blog, willing to tolerate and accept as Christian those that do not believe as his church dogma dictates. Hell he is even open enough to admit that being a deist, agnostic or atheist that lives an exemplary life, can be accepted by a loving god (not that there is one in my opinion). "Catholics should not be arrogant in insisting that they alone possess the truth", priceless comment. The pompous arrogant supposedly Christian posters on this blog are the ones that KNOW the absolute TRUTH...Topher, fred, JB, LofA, L4H, Austin, Chad, etc. cannot even agree with each other and yet they are mini gods in their own minds. If you had to be like any of them to be "saved". who would want to be saved?

        January 25, 2014 at 7:44 am |
        • Science Works

          Arctic vortex here this morning Charm Quark – The TRUTH

          Then the pope says god created the internet which is NOT the truth –

          And they want to save US ?

          But the pope is getting close to the truth.

          January 25, 2014 at 7:58 am |
        • Science Works

          Forgot to mention HELL is still frozen over the truth .

          January 25, 2014 at 8:06 am |
        • Science Works

          But as I know there is more people like Vic and AE too that do not like the FACTS !

          About the series

          Origins of Us tells the story of our species, ho-mo sapiens. In every one of our bodies is the evidence of how we evolved away from our ape cousins to become the adaptable, successful species we are today. Anatomist and physical anthropologist Dr Alice Roberts reveals the key adaptations in our body that has contributed to our extra-ordinary success. Far from being inevitable, the evolution of our species is a product of pure chance. And with each anatomical advantage comes a cost, which many of us are still paying today. Bad backs, painful childbirth, impacted wisdom teeth are all a by-product of our evolutionary success. This is a journey through your own body, 6 million years and 300 000 generations of our family, from a tree dwelling ape in the forests of Africa, to you and the six billion other humans on Earth today.


          January 25, 2014 at 10:07 am |
  9. Thanking God for the accomplishments of science

    Okay, if the internet is a gift from God and Al Gore invented the internet, does that mean the Pope says Al Gore is God?

    January 25, 2014 at 4:22 am |
  10. oity

    Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

    Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake

    January 25, 2014 at 3:52 am |
    • Sure

      And if it weren't for Mary Poppins holding him up with a magic spell, he would have drowned.

      January 25, 2014 at 4:24 am |
  11. tony

    Given their popularity in th eUS, I expect guns are a gift from god too?

    January 24, 2014 at 9:52 pm |
    • Similarly

      Cancer and tsunamis would be a gift from God too. Though, of course, God is NEVER responsible for the bad stuff, even though he is omnipotent and omniscient and it's all his plan.

      January 24, 2014 at 10:21 pm |
      • Saraswati

        He's just not a vey good planner. A lot of us have troubles with long range planning...I get it.

        January 24, 2014 at 11:05 pm |
  12. Now that's just stupid...

    Thank god for p-o-r-n? Makes perfect sense if you have ever really read the bible.

    January 24, 2014 at 9:36 pm |
    • Now that's just stupid...

      Don't use p-0-r-n in your post if you want to get it posted.

      January 24, 2014 at 9:38 pm |
    • tony

      It's just about the largest use of the Internet.

      January 24, 2014 at 9:51 pm |
  13. Now that's just stupid...

    Thank god for p-or-n?

    January 24, 2014 at 9:35 pm |
  14. Now that's just stupid...

    this is just a test

    January 24, 2014 at 9:33 pm |
    • Austin

      you passed it.

      January 25, 2014 at 12:43 pm |
  15. Comedy Central

    Has picked up an affiliate – the CNN belief blog !

    January 24, 2014 at 9:22 pm |
  16. Letting it all out

    Why do you keep looking to a pope for answers? I'm pretty sure he doesn't know anything other than what he's read.
    Why not ask Nasa, or abductees.

    Here's something I learned on the internet Edgar Allen Poe wrote of Israfil in connection to the Pleiades. The Pleiades were mentioned again in Job. There were a series of allegedly pleadian abductions in the 1950's. If you look at the descriptions of any Pleadian alien story the darn thing looks like an angel.

    So if you want to find out about ET's, telepathy and possibly contact maybe someone should start there.

    January 24, 2014 at 6:34 pm |
    • Austin

      hey the big telescope in the vatican is named "lucifer" project.

      you ever read Enoch. predated job and talks about "unholy watchers", or nephilim, who were banished to the heavenly abode after the flood.

      I do not care about this stuff. it does not matter if you pay attention to what God DID, will us to center our attention on.
      None the less, I do not fault anyone who explores the topic. Fair enough.

      January 25, 2014 at 12:58 pm |
  17. bostontola

    The story of Noah and the flood is representative of a conflict with reason and omnipotence.

    Why rain for 40 days? Why not just kill all the things you want to kill with a snap of your finger? The flood is supernatural since there isn't enough water on the planet to do as the bible says, but no one would have recognized that at the time so there is little benefit (when the world got repopulated no one could understand the power exercised and hence the proper fear of God). The global flood would have killed most if not all the land plants, much of the micro-biota, etc. Now God had to exercise more supernatural tricks to compensate for that, and no one would have known about that restorative feat so there wasn't any benefit to it.

    If God had just killed all those he intended dead, none of these questions would remain.

    Why would an omniscient, omnipotent God use such crude tactics that waste much of the potential effect?

    The holes in the story line up perfectly with an explanation that the story was created by men. Men that couldn't understand the flaws in the science of the story or the logical consistency of a creator.

    January 24, 2014 at 6:09 pm |
    • Science Works

      And everybody on planet earth is suppose to be related to Ham who is the father of .... according to Genesis.

      January 24, 2014 at 6:17 pm |
      • bostontola

        The more you dig, the more the story is either absurd, or the more elaborate the rationalization must become to cover the flaws.

        This is most easily explained by the statement, "The Abrahamic God doesn't really exist outside of people's minds".

        It can also be explained by, " The Abrahamic God did things specifically to confound rational, scientific thinkers that would emerge thousands of years from then, even though He gave them those characteristics".

        January 24, 2014 at 6:26 pm |
        • Science Works

          Yeah bostontola way to many flaws to count but fred like to chirp they are not !

          January 24, 2014 at 7:45 pm |
        • fred

          Fast forward 4,000 years and tell me what that culture will think of our great philosophical beliefs based on the limited knowledge we have today.
          When we discover the information expressed within DNA was dependent upon a source external to hydrogen bonds what then? Were we all fools because we should have seen that one coming

          January 24, 2014 at 7:57 pm |
        • Doris

          fred: "Fast forward 4,000 years and tell me what that culture will think of our great philosophical beliefs based on the limited knowledge we have today."

          I imagine they think some of the things we believe in today are crazy. And I imagine, in general, they will think some of the things 4,000 years prior to now are even crazier than we think of them now. The pattern we should pause to notice is that current discovery is often yesterday's superstition.

          January 24, 2014 at 8:37 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Be that as it may, you must believe. The consequence of unbelief is eternal torment. Sorry.

      January 24, 2014 at 6:20 pm |
      • bostontola

        It's OK, I've thrown my lot in with Otemptkin, my omnipotent protector.

        January 24, 2014 at 6:30 pm |
      • tony

        Why are you sorry.? If it's your god's wish, then you should be pleased. Wishing the agony of Hell's torment for eternity upon other people just because they don't agree with your beliefs is par for the course for religious nastys. Eveil personified.

        January 24, 2014 at 9:37 pm |
    • fred

      "The holes in the story line up perfectly with an explanation that the story was created by men. Men that couldn't understand the flaws in the science of the story or the logical consistency of a creator"
      =>so, you declare yourself great over the likes of Abraham, Moses, Solomon, Jesus and Paul. How does the story of your life match up with any of theirs? Tell me do think Abraham or Solomon, without even your high school degree, couldn't figure out how impossibly big that boat of Noah's was and how they shoveled the poop out?

      January 24, 2014 at 6:54 pm |
      • bostontola

        I've never met them, so I can't say. I don't know how you concluded your assertion from what I said.

        January 24, 2014 at 6:59 pm |
        • fred

          " Men that couldn't understand the flaws in the science of the story or the logical consistency of a creator."
          =>You implied these men, the greatest of their time and place, could not rationalize as we do. You implied they could not figure out how much gopher wood and pitch it would take to construct a boat as specified in detail and get the animals rounded up. You implied they lack logical consistency concerning God and the creation which is what the whole oral tradition repeated over and over.

          January 24, 2014 at 7:40 pm |
        • Doris

          fred: "Solomon" [..] "couldn't figure out how impossibly big that boat of Noah's was and how they shoveled the poop out?"

          fred, before you poop, you gotta eat, and before you eat you have to know how much food to outfit your stables with; and before you know that, you have to know how many stables. so how many stables did Solomon have, fred? which of the differing figures in the Bible is the correct one?

          January 24, 2014 at 8:42 pm |
        • fred

          zero, Solomon was unstable as noted by his excesses and lack of moderation. The good news is by the end he realized it was all vanity: "13The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. 14For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil."

          January 24, 2014 at 8:52 pm |
      • Mmmmmmm

        Wow, fred, that's really some projection going on there...not to mention the gratuitous slam to bostontola's education.
        Condescension much?

        January 24, 2014 at 7:07 pm |
        • fred

          My bad, I assumed Abraham, Moses and Solomon did not have a high school education or equivalent knowledge of physics, meteorology, cosmology and biology 3,500 years ago. It was no slam to boston.

          January 24, 2014 at 7:32 pm |
        • Mmmmmmm

          Moses had an exemplary education, did he not? And I re-read the OP, and I cannot see anywhere they are even mentioned.

          January 24, 2014 at 8:33 pm |
    • fred

      "Why rain for 40 days?"
      =>40 days is an important biblical number and had greater meaning than just the number of days. Their understanding of God was rich in symbolic and real encounters as expressed in the story

      "Why not just kill all the things you want to kill with a snap of your finger?"
      =>better yet why not just snap a finger and everyone begins and ends in the perfect place forever in paradise? Skip life and just like a quark suddenly exist as perfect holiness without beginning or end.....oops starting to sound like God before creation.

      "The flood is supernatural"
      "no one would have recognized that at the time so there is little benefit "
      =>the things of God and that of man are not the same. They recognized the difference between the creator and themselves you do not. You have intentionally or by neurological impairment or socioeconomic indoctrination rejected what they understood.

      "God had to exercise more supernatural tricks to compensate for that, and no one would have known about that restorative feat so there wasn't any benefit to it."
      =>what? The flood story is the short version of why God created, why there is evil, why man is powerless over nature, why God decides who gets into the kingdom, mans role in the plan from beginning to end. It never was a science lesson it was about that which science still does not have a clue.

      "If God had just killed all those he intended dead, none of these questions would remain. "
      =>in short you have a better plan than what thousands of Generations have observed is the plan.

      "Why would an omniscient, omnipotent God use such crude tactics that waste much of the potential effect?"
      =>God does not. To the contrary this plan creates the greatest possible amount of goodness with the least possible amount of bad.

      January 24, 2014 at 7:26 pm |
      • bostontola

        None of your responses addresses the main point, the story is only consistent if you don't know that all plants would die too. If the bible said that, then it would have been part of the plan, but no. The story is only sensible if you don't understand how living ecosystems work.

        January 24, 2014 at 9:50 pm |
    • FYI


      January 24, 2014 at 11:16 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.