The Catholic Church can learn from Asian trends in social media to help build communications networks and advance evangelization, a Vatican official has said. “It’s a global community. We learn from each other and particularly we have to recognize the strength of Asia,” Monsignor Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, told CNA Nov. 15. The Ireland-born monsignor said Asia has “almost skipped a generation” to enter “right into the heart of the digital world.” “This means that people here have grown up with the digital media.” Asian countries are competing in a context of rapid economic development and advances in engineering and social media technology. An estimated 40 percent of the world’s internet users live in the Asia and Pacific region, the International Telecommunications Union says. Msgr. Tighe is a keynote speaker at an annual symposium for Catholic communications directors from over 15 countries. They gathered in Yangon, Myanmar Nov. 16-21. This year’s gathering focused on the challenges facing national Catholic communications offices. It also addressed the role of bishops’ meetings in strengthening these offices at a time of changes in media. The event was organized by the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences through its Office of Social Communications. Msgr. Tighe, who previously headed the Dublin archdiocese’s office of public affairs, welcomed the opportunity to attend the symposium. “For me it is a hugely important meeting, for it allows us to know what's happening in Asia and in turn allows us in Rome to know how we should organize our work.” He said the symposium helps Vatican communications workers to learn about present challenges and the kinds of materials they should be working on. “Particularly in the digital context the Church has to understand itself as a network where most people are going to get their news from the local bishops conference so we have to try and provide them content they need,” he said. “Then if they have good material we can bring it to the attention of broader audiences.” Msgr. Tighe said the symposium is important given the number of topics to discuss. It is an opportunity to meet others and to “find out what’s happening and keep up the good relations which are at the heart of Catholic communications.” The monsignor also reflected on the ethics of digital life. He said young people with a social media presence and other individuals working in digital media “must be there as good citizens and as believers.” He said they must make sure their internet behavior is “supportive and positive.” He encouraged people in digital media to “work with other people of goodwill, believers and non-believers alike to ensure that social media realizes its potential and helps people to grow in relationship together.” “As believers, it is important that we are authentic to ourselves so that in the right time and the right circumstances we talk about the hope we have which is from Christ and we share that with others,” Msgr. Tighe added. The communications office of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences aims to equip and update Asian bishops and communications officers and provide them the skills for pastoral communications and evangelization in light of new media trends. In some Asian countries, the Church’s pastoral work and communications efforts are hindered by discrimination, poverty, and even persecution and suppression.
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