Cyberspace can be so cold. And impersonal. That, in spite of the glut of humans interacting digitally.

Which is why the Italian bishops organized a congress on these issues inherent in technological communications, and Pope Benedict talked to them about bringing some warmth and heart into that world.

Indeed, we talk of the ‘digital divide’, which separates the included from the excluded, and this must be added to other separations which already divide nations, both from one another and within themselves”…

[The pope] also noted “the dangers of conformity and control, of intellectual and moral relativism, which are already evident in the diminution of the spirit of criticism, in the truth reduced to an interplay of opinions, in the many forms of degradation and humiliation of individual intimacy. We are witnessing a ‘pollution of the spirit which clouds our faces and makes them less prone to smile’.

That’s a clear and simple warning. What a loaded few sentences. He really nails it.

“And yet”, he added, “the aim of this congress is precisely to recognise faces, and therefore to overcome those collective dynamics that can lead us to lose a sense of the depths people have, to remain on the surface. When this happens those people become bodies without a soul, objects to be exchanged and consumed”.

“And how is it possible to return to people’s faces today?” the Pope asked.

Very good question, given the prominence of Facebook-style communications. Though popular, though providing good exchanges and sometimes important message valuable to the human spirit, its power to provoke can be stimulating or threatening. Benedict already asked the media to do their part in civilizing public debate. He asked them to be more “geared towards a vision of the person and the common good that reflects truly universal values.” They haven’t responded so well yet.

“To achieve goals of this kind, they need to focus on promoting the dignity of persons and peoples, they need to be clearly inspired by charity and placed at the service of truth, of the good, and of natural and supernatural fraternity”.

“Only in these conditions can the epoch-making change we are experiencing be rich and fruitful in new opportunities. … More than by our technical resources, necessary though they are, we wish to identify ourselves by inhabiting the [digital] universe with a believing heart which helps to give a soul to the endless flow of communications on the Internet”.

Yes, it’s more than typing on a keyboard. Internet communications definitely need some heart and soul.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....