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Pope Benedict to Rabbi Yoffie: "Thanks for the Idea"

Pope Benedict to Rabbi Yoffie: "Thanks for the Idea"

OK, so maybe that's not exaaaactly what Pope Benedict said when crafting his message for the upcoming "World Communications Day," but his recent message about it very closely mirrors the ideas behind the Reform Jewish Movement's new communications and technology initiative, which Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, announced last November at the 2009 URJ Biennial.

In his Shabbat morning sermon (a video is below), Rabbi Yoffie announced that the Reform Movement's new initiative would focus on "assisting congregations in developing or expanding congregational blogs." He told Biennial attendees,

... from the time of Ezra, who rewrote the Bible in a new script, we Jews have always adapted to our environment and taken advantage of the latest technologies. To encode our conversations and sacred texts, we moved with ease from stone tablets to parchment to paper, and we will move with equal ease to the electronic word. In fact, we should see the Web as one of the most wondrous developments of all time.

Earlier this week, in his message in advance of World Communications Day, Pope Benedict XVI said,

Responding adequately to this challenge amid today's cultural shifts, to which young people are especially sensitive, necessarily involves using new communications technologies. The world of digital communication, with its almost limitless expressive capacity, makes us appreciate all the more Saint Paul's exclamation: "Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel" (1 Cor 9:16) The increased availability of the new technologies demands greater responsibility on the part of those called to proclaim the Word, but it also requires them to become become more focused, efficient and compelling in their efforts. Priests stand at the threshold of a new era: as new technologies create deeper forms of relationship across greater distances, they are called to respond pastorally by putting the media ever more effectively at the service of the Word.

It is, of course, unsurprising that two religious leaders would call on their communities to focus more intensively on the potential power of new technologies; the same conversation is taking place in every religious denomination, in every non-profit, and in every business around the world. It is interesting, however, that Pope Benedict, who is a true "conservative" in so many senses of the world, is the one who says, "Priests are thus challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources (images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites) which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas ..."

As both faith communities take to the Web, what can we expect to see from them? Pope Benedict's focus on the new educational needs of priests - and the importance of learning "during their formation" how to effectively use new technologies - suggests that there might be room for some interesting avenues for interreligious cooperation.

Published: 1/26/2010

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