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The computer is a vital instrument for today’s evangelisation

2015-02-25 11:02

The world today depends on the Internet. It is not long since people could never have imagined a day without a fountain pen and bottle of ink. In pre-Internet days, Liverpool University boasted of its three computers - but they were so big that the floor could only bear the additional weight of three people in the room at any one time. Then, the University’s huge computers achieved less than today’s mobile phones. Students passed countless hours poring over library books and searching for information which is now easily available online. Thirty years ago, who could have dreamed that spending a few minutes at a keyboard would pay the gas and electricity bills? The possibility of talking to somebody thousands of miles away whilst receiving instant video and sound was the stuff of science fiction and the special effects department of film and television studios: we now take Skype for granted.

The changing times have been equally obvious in the life of the Church. Take, for instance, Saints Ignatius of Loyola and Francis Xavier. The founder of the Jesuits wrote more than 7000 letters to his early followers and yet, in 1543, Xavier could write, “It is now the third year since I left Portugal. I am writing to you for the third time, having as yet received only one letter from you, dated February 1542... I only received it two months ago, later than is usual for letters to reach India, because the vessel which brought it had passed the winter at Mozambique.” Those were the days when missionaries made on-the-spot decisions rather than wait several years for a response to a letter to headquarters. If the two saints had had the benefits of the Internet, God alone knows the possibilities which may have opened up before them.

In yesteryear, pilgrims travelled on foot or horseback, making long and difficult journeys to Rome in order to visit the glories of St John Lateran, St Peter’s and the Sistine Chapel. Today we can enjoy exquisite 3D tours of those places and others without leaving the comfort of home. Amazing advances in technology enable us to be present as Pope Francis preaches his daily. Gone are the days when the Pope could be described as “the prisoner of the Vatican”.

When St Francis Xavier set off in search of China, his journey took him many years and drained his otherwise seemingly indefatigable energy and health. He and countless other missionaries depended on the power of their voices as they took the Gospel to new lands and peoples. Imagine what he might have achieved with a few strategic videos, PowerPoint presentations, CDs and worksheets.

When Pope Pius XI made his first Vatican Radio broadcast on 12th February 1931, people knelt in the street as they heard his voice. Today, thanks to our sophisticated technology, we can listen to Pope Francis “on demand”. 

A pencil might sometimes be more reliable than the computer, but the computer is a vital instrument for today’s evangelisation.

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