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Pope Calls Internet an Opportunity

January 22, 2002

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VATICAN CITY (AP) _ Pope John Paul II, who has avidly used mass media and information technology to get out his message, said Tuesday the Internet offered new opportunities to evangelize but also poses dangers.

In an online message to highlight issues for the Church’s World Communications Day in May, the pope said the cyberspace frontier created similar challenges for spreading Church instruction as previous ``threshold moments″ in history: the Renaissance, the invention of printing and the Industrial Revolution.

``For the Church, the new world of cyberspace is a summons to the great adventure of using its potential to proclaim the Gospel message,″ the pope said in ``Internet: A New Forum for Proclaiming the Gospel.″

However, with those opportunities come risks, including the Internet’s notorious ability to spread ``degrading and damaging″ material, he said.

In addition, Internet users could come away from the endless reams of information online thinking facts matter more than values, he said. And the immediacy of Internet information could diminish the desire for deeper thought and reflection.

``Understanding and wisdom are the fruit of a contemplative eye upon the world, and do not come from a mere accumulation of facts, no matter how interesting,″ he said.

The 81-year-old pontiff also warned of the growing technology gap between rich and poor and said true evangelization requires human contact, not just electronic relationships.

John Paul has often used the media to get out his message during his 23-year papacy and has presided over a technological revolution at the Vatican, including the 1995 start of its Web site. Last November, he sent his first official message online _ an apology for missionary abuses against indigenous peoples of the South Pacific.

The pontiff has frequently spoken of the ``ethical and spiritual″ challenges created by the new technology and has called for greater responsibility by the media and those working in high-speed information systems.

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