For all those who have been staying off social media until the Almighty Himself says that it’s O.K., would you settle for the Pope’s approval? Yes, his Holiness has been talking about humanity’s need for connection and how it manifests itself online. And just to disappoint all the cynics out there, he’s pretty much talking sense.
Calling social networks and search engines “the starting point of communication for many people who are seeking advice, ideas, information and answers,” Pope Benedict XVI said that the endless conversation online “demonstrates the restlessness of human beings, ceaselessly searching for truths, of greater or lesser import that can offer meaning and hope to their lives.”
But instead of suggesting a move away from looking online for meaning, focusing the search toward the direction of the Catholic Church, Benedict urged something less controversial and more practical: balancing your online and inner lives.
“Attention should be paid to the various types of websites, applications and social networks which can help people today to find time for reflection and authentic questioning,” he said, “as well as making space for silence and occasions for prayer, meditation or sharing of the word of God.” Elsewhere, he repeated the idea with potential reference to Twitter: “In concise phrases, often no longer than a verse from the Bible, profound thoughts can be communicated, as long as those taking part in the conversation do not neglect to cultivate their own inner lives.”
The Pope’s message was part of the church’s preparation for its 46th World Day of Social Communications, which this year has the theme “Silence and Word: Path of Evangelization.” In the official announcement of the theme, reference is made to “the extraordinarily varied nature of the contribution of modern communications to society,” suggesting that more theological discussion about the place of social media and the Internet in general may be in store before the World Day itself, which falls on May 20.
Graeme McMillan is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @Graemem or on Facebook at Facebook/Graeme.McMillan. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.