Pope Benedict XVI - Essays and Reflections on His Papacy

Helen Osman

Helen Osman

“…this pope has embraced new social media technology—fraught with peril and risks for an institution accustomed to measuring changes in centuries—at lightening speed… It’s not only an acknowledgement that this is perhaps the new ‘ends of the earth’ (Mt 28:19) but also an eagerness to remind people why they find themselves drawn to the new technology… ‘This desire for communication and friendship is rooted in our very nature as human beings.” —from the essay “‘Friending’ Is Evangelizing” by Helen Osman

A Talk with Helen Osman, author of the essays “Papal Visit 2008: Christ Our Hope” and “‘Friending’ Is Evangelizing” from Benedict XVI: Essays and Reflections on His Papacy

Q. What are some highlights of the Papal Visit to the United States in 2008?

A. Certainly one of the major highlights was Pope Benedict’s meeting with four victims of sexual abuse by clergy. It was historic, and, by all accounts of those present, very emotional. It showed that the Holy Father is deeply troubled not only by the stain that the abuse by clergy has been to the priesthood but also by the incredible pain it has caused in so many lives.

Q. You describe the Pope’s reception by Americans as akin to a “family reunion.” How so?

A. The word pope comes from an Old English word that means “papa.” For Catholics, he’s our spiritual father.

Q. How did an introvert, not to mention octogenarian, like Pope Benedict, become the first Pope to make an appearance on YouTube?

A. Perhaps he just happened to be in the right place at the right time. YouTube only came into existence in 2005, the same year that he was elected to the papacy. However, we must give him credit for being willing to move so quickly—especially for the Church—into this new medium.

Q. How has Pope Benedict embraced new technology and social media as an evangelistic tool?

A. Perhaps the most important way he has shown his desire for the Church to use new communication technology, most especially social media, has been his encouragement of its use in the last two messages for World Communications Day. In both letters, what is most striking to me is the absence of cautionary language. Often, the Church’s messages about media are filled with concern regarding how it exploits the vulnerable, can be addictive and reduce truly human activity. These two messages are quite the opposite, both in tone and in message. For instance, in the message for 2010, he wrote: “If used wisely, and with the help of experts in technology and communications, the new media can become a valid and effective tool for priests and all pastoral workers for evangelization and communion that are true and full of meaning.”

Helen Osman is secretary of communications for the USCCB. 


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“Pope Benedict’s critique of biotechnology is that, when it ignores moral limits it does not advance humankind but asserts the power of some human beings to oppress others.”

Richard Doerflinger