Since his 2007 appointment as president of the council, Archbishop Celli has been on a mission to learn about the opportunities that the new technology offers the church in its communication and sharing of the Gospel with all of humanity.
“The problem is not if we use or we don’t use new technologies, but the problem of the church is to have a real dialogue and then to see how we can announce in such a culture the Gospel,” he said, adding that Pope Benedict also invited everyone in his message for World Communication Day, especially priests, to have a pastoral attitude in the field of communication and the digital culture. “It’s employing a beautiful image because it’s talking about the highways of the Internet,” and if people in these broad and wide highways are finding God, he said.
Archbishop Celli used the example of the Solomon Temple in Jerusalem to illustrate the pope’s image of technology.
“There was a place where also the pagans, those who were not belonging to the people of God, could meet with the people of God…. They could have a dialogue,” he said. “The Holy Father has taken this image, this beautiful image as he’s hoping … that in the highways of the Internet there is a space where people can meet and can have fruitful, respectful dialogue.”
That dialogue continues through a designated YouTube channel for the pope. Archbishop Celli and others proposed the idea to the pope, who “accepted immediately,” and, in January 2009, the Vatican channel was born.
“…YouTube is a place, like a modern agora, where people are meeting. …We can be present in what we are and how we are, and I think that this is a positive approach of the Holy Father to the new technologies, knowing the limits, but also appreciating the possibilities,” Archbishop Celli said.
Because technology offers possibilities, Archbishop Celli also said that it’s important for the church to reach out to all Catholics and non-Catholics, in different ways, and to eliminate the digital divide.
“Because many parts, many sectors of humanity today – they don’t have access to new technologies and, in a certain sense, we are separated. We are divided,” he said.
Archbishop Celli said that Pope Benedict XVI is repeating the invitation that Pope John Paul II originally made to eliminate the digital divide through the use of new technology, “in order that all humanity can enter in a fruitful dialogue,” also part of his task on the council. The challenge, he said, is that the church is moving at different speeds in communication in different parts of the world.
“In some countries, the presence of the church is very strong and effective,” Archbishop Celli said. “In some other countries where the social-economical problems are more influencing the situation, I would say that the church is moving with a different speed.”
But the church is paying attention to what’s happening, and what it can do, the archbishop said.
“And so the mission of our council is this exactly, to invite the church, to help the church, to help the church to meditate, to take conscience of its responsibility and of its mission in the field of the digital culture,” he said.
Archbishop Celli attended the Catholic Media Convention, “Spreading the Good News Byte by Byte,” in June in New Orleans, where 350 participants discussed Catholic media and how to better utilize new technology. In September, he said he will travel to Africa for the World Congress of the Press, and in October, he will partake in the International Congress on the Catholic Press. “So, little by little we will see what we can do,” he said.