Return to communication

Return to communication

The rise of technology, and in particular the spread of smartphones, has had major effects on life in the 21st century. Pope Francis has commented on these developments several times. The core of his message: start communicating with each other without using such devices.

The advances in technology do not go unnoticed in the Vatican. Pope Francis recently called for people to put away their mobile phones at the dinner table.[1] Using Jesus’ family as an example, he explained how mealtimes should be used to communicate with family members. According to the pope, Jesus, Mary and Joseph “prayed, worked and communicated with each other.”[2] Therefore, he urged families to start real communication, especially when gathering for a meal.

Lift up your phones
This is not the first time the Pope has commented on the use of mobile phones. In 2016, he already stressed how television and cell phones can damage time families spend together: “In our families, at the dinner table, how many times while eating, do people watch the TV or write messages on their cell phones?”

As well as commenting on the changes that cellphones have caused at home, the Pope has also referred to the use of mobile phones in religious services. In particular, he stated that the purpose of attending mass is to lift up your heart, not lift up your phone to take a picture. He said: “It’s so sad when I’m celebrating mass … and I see lots of phones held up – not just by the faithful, but also by priests and bishops! Please!”[3]

The pope once again returned to the issue when he met a group of students and teachers from a high school in Rome. He warned the group that they should not become too dependent on their mobile phones. Whilst acknowledging that phones could be used in a positive way for connecting and communicating, he stressed that students should “free [themselves] from the addiction to mobile phones.” He continued to say that everyone should know how to use a phone, but that they will lose their freedom when they “become a slave” to the device.[4] Moreover, Pope Francis warned that phones can be an obstacle to true communication and stated: “Life is not for ‘contacting’, it is for communicating!”[5]

Pope on social media
However, Pope Francis is clearly not calling for a total end to mobile phones. He is an active user of social media himself, with more than 18 million followers on Twitter[6] and 7.1 million followers on Instagram.[7] Additionally, he regularly takes selfies with pilgrims.[8]

He has therefore stressed that social networks can also be used for interaction, support and solidarity within communities. With this in mind, the Vatican has launched a mobile phone app and online platform called ‘click to pray’, where users can share prayer intentions with one another. Others can then join the prayer with just one click. After the app became available, the ‘click to pray’ button was clicked over a million times in the first three days.[9]

Balancing real life and on social networks
The key here may be to find the right balance. On the one hand, Pope Francis has repeatedly stressed the importance of real-life communication with one another, for instance taking Jesus’ family as an example. On the other hand, he has shown how social networks and apps can connect and support communities. It is up to the individual to strike this balance accordingly.

Anne Clerx

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[1]Il Papa all’Angelus: “Spegnete i telefonini a tavola, la famiglia torni a comunicare”
[2] It’s good to talk, but not on mobiles, Pope says
[3] It’s good to talk, but not on mobiles, Pope says
[4]Pope to students: ‘don’t be slaves to your mobile phones’
[5]Don’t let your cell phone become an addiction, pope warns high schoolers
[6] It’s good to talk, but not on mobiles, Pope says
[7] Pope Francis (@franciscus) • Instagram photos and videos
[8] It’s good to talk, but not on mobiles, Pope says
[9] Resource not risk: Pope reflects on using social media for good