Tuesday, September 18, 2007

20 Years of Computer Evangelization

This month marks the 20th anniversary of the beginning of Catholic Information Network (CIN). The first CIN BBS was started to record and distribute the messages from Pope John Paul II who was then making a historic visit around the U.S. The BBS was networked with other computers around the world and people dialed-up to find texts and conferences on Catholic topics. Of course, the internet was not available to the public at that time.

We were the first electronic service to distribute full texts of encyclicals, other papal documents and Catholic texts to the public free of charge making them widely accessible for the first time. Fortunately, the Vatican website came online some years later and now offers all the important texts on the Church's teaching and life.


"With the advent of computer telecommunications and what are known as computer participation systems, the Church is offered further means for fulfilling her mission. Methods of facilitating communication and dialogue among her own members can strengthen the bonds of unity between them. Immediate access to information makes it possible for her to deepen her dialogue with the contemporary world.

"In the new "computer culture" the Church can more readily inform the world of her beliefs and explain the reasons for her stance on any given issue or event.

"She can hear more clearly the voice of public opinion and enter into continuous discussion with the world around her, thus involving herself more immediately in the common search for solutions to humanity's many pressing problems (cf. "Communion et Progressio," 114ff.).

"It is clear that the Church must also avail herself of the new resources provided by human exploration in computer and satellite technology for her ever pressing task of evangelization. Her most vital and urgent message has to do with knowledge of Christ and the way of salvation which He offers. This is something she must put before the people of every age, inviting them to embrace the Gospel out of love, ever mindful that "truth cannot impose itself except by virtue of its own truth, which wins over the mind with both gentleness and power" ("Dignitatis Humanae," 1). ...

"Surely we must be grateful for the new technology which enables us to store information in vast man-made artificial memories, thus providing wide and instant access to the knowledge which is our human heritage,to the Church's teaching and tradition, the words of Sacred Scripture, the counsels of the great masters of spirituality, the history and traditions of the local churches, of religious orders and lay institutes, and to the ideas and experiences of initiators and innovators whose insights bear constant witness to the faithful presence in our midst of a loving Father who brings out of His treasure new things and old (cf. Mt 13:52)."

-- Pope John Paul II, May 27, 1989, "Church Must Learn to Cope with Computer Culture."

Reflecting on the Internet, as upon all the other media of social communications, we recall that Christ is "the perfect communicator" the norm and model of the Church's approach to communication, as well as the content that the Church is obliged to communicate. "May Catholics involved in the world of social communications preach the truth of Jesus ever more boldly from the housetops, so that all men and women may hear about the love which is the heart of God's self-communication in Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and for ever".

From the Vatican, 24 January 1990, the Feast of Saint Francis de Sales
Whether we are young or old, let us rise to the challenge of new discoveries and technologies by bringing to them a moral vision rooted in our religious faith, in our respect for the human person, and our commitment to transform the world in accordance with God's plan. On this World Communications Day, let us pray for wisdom in using the potential of the "computer age" to serve man's human and transcendent calling, and thus to give glory to the Father from whom all good things come.

Catechism of the Catholic Church
2493 Within modern society the communications media play a major role in information, cultural promotion, and formation. This role is increasing, as a result of technological progress, the extent and diversity of the news transmitted, and the influence exercised on public opinion.

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