(ANS – Rome) – Interesting results are arriving from research carried out by the Catholic University of Milan’s Centre for Research in Education for Media and Information Technology (CREMIT) and the Department of Institutions and Society of the University of Perugia on behalf of the Italian Association of Catholic Webmasters. The research concerns the use of Facebook by priests, religious and seminarians. Although it is limited to Italian context, the enquiry is surely indicative of the situation in wider society, in the Church, and, in our case, in the Salesian context.
The research carried out by CREMIT shows that 20% of diocesan priests and of male religious have a profile on Facebook. This is higher than that of Italian citizens in general. The percentage rises to 59.7% for seminarians, a clear sign of the greater use of such sites by younger generations.
From the first findings a numerical difference is appearing between male and female religious. Is this a gender-based digital divide? Or is it simply related to the different types of work they do? Differences are also emerging between the north and the south of Italy: in this case the south appears to be more digitised than the north, which seems less inclined to use social and interactive media.
“The first results of this research make us understand the importance of initial and ongoing formation for Salesians”, commented Fr Filiberto Gonzalez, General Councillor for Social Communications. “Following the Year of the Priest, Pope Benedict XVI dedicated his message for the XLIV World Day of Prayer for Social Communications to priests, inviting them to be pastors in the digital world and let their consecrated heart shine through.”
The Pope was inviting priests to use new media in an appropriate and competent way, learnt during their formation, and to give themselves a solid theological preparation and a sound priestly spirituality.
“The digital world presents us with new challenges”, explained Fr Gonzalez. “It’s not just a matter of surfing the web or being able to read something on a screen; it’s about approaching the situation with new hermeneutic criteria and discovering novel methods of pastoral activity. Our mission to young people, in education and evangelisation, can only take advantage from this if we enter it in the style of ‘Salesian Assistance’, with the pastoral heart of Don Bosco.”