Pope to bloggers: Be nice

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The pope is taking some bloggers to task, according to the Associated Press’ coverage of his World Communications Day message, released today (the feast day of St. Francis de Sales, patron of journalists) :

“Benedict didn't name names, but the head of the Vatican's social communications office, Archbishop Claudio Celli, said it was certainly correct to direct the pope's exhortation to some conservative Catholic blogs, YouTube channels and sites which, with some vehemence, criticize bishops, public officials and policies they consider not Catholic enough.”

Most of Catholic coverage has been more positive, about how the pope is encouraging the use of social media for sharing the gospel. Much of it builds upon what he has said for the past few years (2009 and 2010): There are good and bad sides to online world, but the church definitely needs to be there. 

Pope Benedict does take the conversation to another level this year (and the Vatican website will finally be taken to another level soon too). According to CNS, “he said proclaiming the gospel through new media was not simply a matter of inserting religious content into online platforms, but also of witnessing the gospel consistently when communicating choices, preferences and judgments.”

Vox Nova started out the year (perhaps anticipating the pope's theme) with ideas for living the gospel on line: 10 suggestions for a better Catholic blogosphere

The basic idea is, "it’s not just what we say, it’s how we say it." Bryan applied this adage to the pro-life movement a few years ago, and this discussion in the midst of the March for Life/anniversary of Roe v. Wade is appropriate considering the passion surrounding the abortion issue. You may not like or agree with her, but on Krista Tippett On Being, pro-choice Catholic Frances Kissling says civil conversations with pro-lifers have changed some of her opinions about abortion. Can this happen online? 

The AP’s coverage also puts the pope’s comments in the context of U.S. politics and the call for civility in the wake of the attempted assassination of Sen. Gabrielle Giffords. At tomorrow’s State of the Union address, Republicans and Democrats will be sitting next to each other instead of across the aisle.

This might just be a symbolic action, but it, along with the pope's remarks, might remind us who the neighbors we're supposed to love are as we sit by ourselves in front of the computer screen.