Pope Benedict XVI marked his debut on YouTube Friday by releasing a speech in which he praised new communication technologies as powerful instruments for good, while also warning of the potential pitfalls associated with their misuse.
In a speech entitled "New Technologies, New Relationships: Promoting a Culture of Respect, Dialogue and Friendship," released Friday ahead of the Catholic Church's World Social Communications Day, scheduled for May 24, Benedict said digital technologies could be remarkable instruments for dialogue, friendship and evangelization.
"These technologies are truly a gift to humanity and we must endeavor to ensure that the benefits they offer are put at the service of all human individuals and communities, especially those who are most disadvantaged and vulnerable," the 81-year-old German pontiff said.
Mobile phones, computers and Internet had contributed to social progress by facilitating dynamic forms of learning and communication, the Pope said. The desire to communicate with others was imprinted in our nature by God, "the God of communication and communion," the Pope said.
The Pope urged people of good will engaged in the digital communications sector to promote a culture of dialogue and respect.
"If the new technologies are to serve the good of individuals and of society, all users will avoid the sharing of words and images that are degrading of human beings, that promote hatred and intolerance, that debase the goodness and intimacy of human sexuality or that exploit the weak and vulnerable," the Pope said.
The Pope also warned that Internet friendships should not displace friendships in the real world and time-consuming navigation in cyberspace should not isolate us from real life.
"If the desire for virtual connectedness becomes obsessive, it may in fact function to isolate individuals from real social interaction while also disrupting the patterns of rest, silence and reflection that are necessary for healthy human development," he said.
But, delivered on the same day that the Vatican launched a dedicated YouTube channel to disseminate the Pope's messages, the tone of his speech on new technology was overwhelmingly positive.
Young people, in particular, were called to harness new technologies to spread the "good news" of the Gospel, the Pope said, and "to take on the responsibility for the evangelization of this 'digital continent'."