Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Technology today has transformed the world into a global village where everyone is potentially empowered to reach out, succour and even change many lives in a matter of seconds. “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6).
As technology constantly evolves and progresses, dominating the world-scape; we need to be updated and knowledgeable about ways that allow us to wield this powerful tool to widen the reach of ‘the message of true freedom and new life in Jesus Christ – and the call to live that new life within the Church’. As Pope Benedict XVI in his message for the 43rd World Communication Day titled “New Technologies, New Relationships: Promoting a culture of respect, dialogue and friendship” stated: ‘The new digital technologies are, indeed, bringing about fundamental shifts in patterns of communication and human relationships.’ (Sunday, 24 May 2009.)
In the Pontifical Council document, ‘The Church and Internet’
( Feb, 2002) it is stated that the Church regards the internet as a positive means to help human development, justice, peace and solidarity and recognizes the internet as a gift of God. The new technologies offer opportunities for evangelization, catechesis, administration and sharing of information and news. Thus they provide an effective means for dialogue and expression. However, even as we accept that technology can bring forth such good fruit, we also need to be aware of the challenges it poses.
The following paper is based upon discussions and the findings of the Archdiocesan Survey 2012, covering 5082 respondents in ten categories, between the ages of 18 to 92 years, the median age being 45.91 years.
This particular segment of the survey (that considers the Relationship of the Church with Technology), broadly underlines the usefulness of technology as a means of communication, emphasizes through statistics the need for more training, and outlines the challenges posed by a media perceived by those who participated in the Survey as a temptation to addiction and a disseminator of information that is often unreliable.
Against this background, where does the Church stand vis-a-vis communication technology today?
Main Discussion
“The Catholic Church should embrace social media – or at the very least accept it – not as the solution to outreach difficulties but as a means to starting a conversation, resourcing and reaching people where they are. The message of true freedom and new life in Jesus Christ – and the call to live that new life within the Church – is too valuable to not use every available means to communicate it to a world hungering for its liberating invitation.”
-       (Billy Atwell, Social Media and the Catholic Church,

1.     The group unanimously felt the Consultation Sample Survey was very internet centric and left out the age group of 12 to 18, which could be regarded as an entire generation in terms of technological development and obsolescence. Thus in the very first question, on internet activities from email through social networking, the use of Skype, downloading music, doing internet banking, shopping or making reservations online, action was heaviest between the ages of 26 to 45. Most of the activity centered around email (78%), but the group between 18 to 25 years represented just 11.3%, making it pretty clear that for this segment, the gadget of choice for the platform of choice will not be computers (whether desktop or laptop). What will the communication platform be? Very likely mobile phones. At the end of 2011, there were 6 billion phones worldwide, driven largely by India and China. International Telecom Union) This makes up 87% of the world’s population. Together they sent out 8 trillion SMSs, indicating this is the favoured mode of communication.
2.     The discussions found the need to distinguish between sophisticated gadgetry and the smart use of technology. Even sophisticated gadgetry does not guarantee efficient delivery of information, with most people using barely 10% of the features available. Yet, if mobile device sales actually grew, Smartphones grew the fastest. At the end of 2011, significantly, use of the mobile web is set to overtake fixed-line internet in India. (Statcounter, via It can thus be deduced that mobile phones are going to lead to a surge in the use of internet as well in this country.

3.     There is no debate about the Church’s need to use Information Technology. However, the Church needs to move beyond simply disseminating information (Masses, meetings, activities) to evangelization in its broadest sense, that of living one’s faith in thought, word and deed in the everyday lives of the laity, thus empowering them with the information they need to know in order to grow. Networking is the need of the hour, technology provides the platforms. Nevertheless, the Church must adopt a strategic policy keeping in mind that technology is no substitute for the personal, the human touch. At best, it can be used as a powerful tool to reach the largest numbers as quickly as possible, while underlining the quality of its teachings and messages.

4.     The following are applicable technologies which are being and can be used by the Archdiocese.

Strongly used:
l      Print Media
l      Email and SMS
l      Mobiles and telephones
l      Audio visual aids

Limited use:
l      Websites
l      Blogs
l      Social Networking Sites (You Tube, FaceBook, Twitter)

What’s left?
l      Mass media technologies (Television, Radio)
l      Information technology
l      Cloud Computing (See Para 8)
l      Games

5.     Most Parishes use Print Media as a primary means to communicate with their parishioners mainly because this is relatively inexpensive and reaches across all generations, old and young. The shelf life of this medium is much higher. Since these parish bulletins contain a lot of information about the parish and its activities, it should make use of the latest Desktop Publishing (DTP) Technologies to make the content attractive and vibrant. Nor should it stop here but ensure that these print bulletins are uploaded on to parish websites, or placed on the Archdiocesan website to be accessed by all who visit.

6.     Effective use of today’s mass media technologies should be used to connect with the youth and other generations. The Internet, Mobile, Mobile Computing, Radio, DTH Satellite & Cable TV, and print play a vital role in Mass Media. The new technologies have also opened the way for dialogue between people from different countries, cultures and religions. Cyberspace has encouraged virtual exchanges of information about culture, values and traditions. Yet more than half the priests (55%), asked to respond to questions on the use of communications technology in specified areas, did not do so. Less than half (45%) responded to questions on the manner of dissemination of information in the parish. Why?

7.     It is important to underline a growing factor which has emerged from the internet and that is the use of Smartphones. The youth have been hooked on to this form of communication i.e. through mobile and text messaging. The Smartphone world has enabled youngsters to communicate with each other instantly and also enabled them to share their thoughts and opinions. Many people cannot afford a computer but find that they can communicate and socialize through their phones, which are a cheaper device. However, friendship, while being a great human good, would be emptied of its ultimate value if it were to be understood as an end in itself. In this context, it is gratifying to note the emergence of new digital networks that seek to promote human solidarity, peace and justice, human rights and respect for human life and the good of creation.

8.     Smartphones inevitably lead to another growing trend - the use of the mobile internet and their ability to connect to Social Networking Sites (SNS). With the overwhelming popularity of short messaging and one-liners , the format of social networking sites are an ideal way to keep in touch with the youth and engage them in conversation.

9.     Archdiocesan seminarians, lay and religious leaders have swiftly taken advantage of these trends and used them to network both with the youth and with the general laity in a parish. In their use of communications technology, 80.6% of seminarians surveyed said they used it for confirmation classes, 69.4% for catechesis and youth groups.  This particular network, between seminarians and the youth, needs to be developed along the lines of like calling to like, youth responding to youthful clergymen in their quest of spiritual guidance and pastoral counsel, being a fact of life.

10.   Cloud computing today is gaining momentum. This refers to applications and services offered over the Internet data centers all over the world, which collectively are referred to as the “cloud.” This metaphor represents the intangible, yet universal nature of the Internet. Most documents, presentations etc. can be stored online in the cloud and it would be wise to use this virtual technology to bring together a multimedia resource base explicitly for the purpose of educating parishioners about current church affairs etc.
11.   Most parishes in the Archdiocese do have a website, but many find themselves either unable to maintain it or keep it running. An indispensable part of Information technology is to keep people updated and abreast with all the latest news and information, such as Mass timings, deaths, births, parish activities etc. A clear-cut understanding of what a parish website should look like and the basic content it should display will attract the returning visitor.  For this purpose the diocese needs to establish some form of a template. The use of blogs as parish websites should also be encouraged since this is a free service on the Internet.

12.   Multimedia tools are being used all over the world to enrich one’s experience of the Eucharist and for Catechesis with the aim of deepening one’s faith. The same enrichment can flow into other areas of the pastoral ministry, such as meetings, social outreach, inter-religious dialogue and various other forums.

13.   The Church, since she teaches the doctrine of salvation and has all that is needed for the attainment of holiness, has an inviolable right to communicate that which has been entrusted to her by divine command. This sacred right should be acknowledged by public authorities, so that the Church might have access to those means by which she can spread truth and virtue. Sincere and zealous sons of the Church, who recognize the inestimable gift of the Redemption, must exert every effort in seeing that she has the use of these technical advances to the extent that they can contribute to the sanctification of souls. Encyclical Miranda Prorsus, on Mass Communications, September, 8, 1957, [28]) 


“I would like to conclude this message by addressing myself, in particular, to young Catholic believers: to encourage them to bring the witness of their faith to the digital world.  I ask you to introduce into the culture of this new environment of communications and information technology the values on which you have built your lives”.
-       (Pope Benedict XVI in his message for the 43rd World Communication Day titled ‘New Technologies, New Relationships: Promoting a culture of respect, dialogue and friendship, Sunday, 24 May 2009)
1.     Most parishes are doing quite well with printed bulletins. They must now look at publishing online versions and helping to creating an archive of all bulletins that can be maintained digitally. This can be done at the diocesan level or by the parish itself.
2.     Social Networking Sites like FaceBook, Twitter etc. need to be looked at in greater detail. Not only are they a cost effective method in using technology to communicate but practically every gadget or phone purchased these days can support them.
3.     An SNS site would also be effective in communicating with people. A typical parish could use the SNS to inform people about its programs and possibly provide online resources through multimedia for some of its services etc. However, care must be taken to make sure that these SNSs are constantly updated and are a two-way street. A parish could also opt for having an SNS page (like FaceBook) over a website.

4.     The use of platforms like YouTube by parishes and other Church organizations and bodies should also be encouraged by the Archdiocese. The phenomenon of You Tube and its ability to go viral in a short time is an argument in favour of developing its use within the Archdiocese to heighten the effect of the personal touch or message in an increasingly virtual world.

5.     Since most of the Archdiocese of Bombay is in Greater Mumbai, the greater part has access to a Broadband Internet Connection. The parishes and bodies of the Church must make sure that all activities are covered by at least photographs or video clips which can be uploaded to be uploaded to YouTube or other media forums. This means of broadcasting oneself will benefit not only those who attend parish activities but also serve as a motivator for others to join in as well.

6.     Parish Media and Technology Cells can be established to cater to the communication and technological needs of the parish. The cell would have a dedicated computer system to look into its SNS / Website. The parish technology cell can also look into providing other multimedia systems and projectors / panel displays, audio systems etc. both for the purpose of catechism and other parish activities.

7.     A special correspondent should be appointed to disseminate information to the print media (The Examiner), diocesan bodies and the secular press.

8.     An inter-parish network can also be set up for the purpose of connecting across the Archdiocese. This network can form a database of all useful information that can be shared across parishes. The database could include anything from Catholic Businesses to Catholic Resources, Birth and Death Columns, Obituaries and other info regarding diocesan inter parish activities.

9.     The importance of guidelines for use of information technology with regard to legal parameters, privacy, intellectual property rights etc. cannot be over emphasized and accordingly the Archdiocese needs to draft necessary guidelines. Training needs to be imparted to the laity to assist the parishes in the usage of this powerful medium. Perhaps training in the use of technology could also be included in regular training programs such as CTC, PYAS, SCC etc. Certainly it would encourage more potential users to come forward.

10.   The use of multimedia tools to enrich one’s experience of the Eucharist and Catechesis. Consistent exposure to questions of faith and doctrine will hone our own understanding of our faith, thus strengthening it. YouTube clips, PowerPoint presentations and other forms of multimedia clips need to be projected as often as possible to establish the fact that our Church is a modern church, that it is willing to live the Alphabetical Age behind for the Digital Age. Quality tools (projectors, laptops, sound systems) are a given. The investment must be made.

11.   Priests are challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources (images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites etc.) which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelization and catechesis.


1.    The Immensity Of The Task Ahead.
        The Church needs to harmonize the alphabetical world with the digital world as the youth today are in the vanguard of technological progress. The Church needs to reaffirm its commitment to address the problems of the youth through an immersion in their world.
2.    Overcoming Reluctance To Engage On The Path Of Church And  Hierarchy.
        The Church finds it difficult to respond to the problems of the laity because the hierarchical structure often impedes the work of individuals and groups due to the reluctance to change.
3.    Commitments To The Long Haul.
      Professionalism calls for an adequate and just remuneration on the part of the recipient. The Church for long has followed the model of co-responsibility and hence finds it difficult to garner funds to project a more professional pproach to constructing models for the use of the laity.
4.    The Inculcation Of A Culture Of Responsibility.
        We need to be responsible citizens of the world and be sensitive to the various cultures when placing materials on the World Wide Web.

5.    Understanding Security Risk.
        The Church needs to be aware of the abuses and the dangers that affect the digital world, like hacking, virus injunctions etc. Modern technological developments are good but are always in flux, as they keep on changing.
is important that people at all levels of the Church use technology creatively meet their responsibilities and help fulfill the Church’s mission of evangelization, catechesis, social justice and human rights. The Church also needs to understand and use technology, not as a replacement of the human dimension of service but as a facilitator of the same. This requires keeping clearly in view its special character as a direct, immediate, interactive and participatory medium.
Questions for Discussion:
1.   Mention at least 3 most important ideas in the paper you agree with, giving reasons for the same
2.   Any suggestions relating to the implementation and the way forward regarding the above?
3.   Please mention any ideas in the paper you disagree with, giving reasons for the same
4.         Please mention any important aspects that you think have not been covered in the paper.

1 comment:

  1. Relationship with Country /Neighbourhood/ Society

    The concept, ideas and suggestions are very idealistic. While agreeing to them all, it would be pertinent to ask who will bell the cat. At all levels we need people who have a clear idea of what is expected of them and how to go about doing it.

    Most importantly, This has to be done in a vey systematic manner. Like running a Corporation with a strong legal backing, to advise and guide the groups at all levels of functioning. Moreover we can expect people to give their time and effort only if they are remunerated or benefitted in some way because they will have to be involved or working in this forum on a daily basis or part time basis.

    My Suggestions

    Core team -consisting of clergy with exposure to other faiths, culture, pshchology and NGO’s.

    -Top legal brains

    -NGOs with good track record


    -staff and equipment based in Mumbai

    -Second rung of about who can be trained

    -Enough funds to handle above and forthcoming emergencies for next ten years.

    This can be replicated at all levels.

    A package has to be worked out for volunteers or staff, either in monetary terms or resource availability like hospitals, care centres, colleges etc.

    The idea behind this is that those who need the money will earn it through this work. (This will be the younger age population)

    And those who are semi-retired or retired but still active and useful can be given benefits of hospital care or oldage care at subsidized rates. This gives a sense of belonging and loyalty to our institutions apart from making each and every one of us free to devote our time for this work.

    from Seby Vendokaran, Bombay Catholic Sabha, Chembur unit