The XXVI Plenary Assembly held by the Pontifical Council for the Laity will take place from 5 - 7 December 2013 at Villa Aurelia, Rome. The theme of the Plenary is: Proclaiming Christ in a digital age, a topic confirmed by the Holy Father Francis, as well as by his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI before him. It deals with one of the questions which most characterises our time; a theme particularly relevant to the mission of the lay faithful in the contemporary world and is one to which the pontifical Magisterium has dedicated important interventions throughout the last few years.
The third day of the Assembly will be reserved as usual to the revision and evaluation of proposals regarding the future programmes of our Dicastery. The choice of the theme responds to different relevant solicitations. First of all it seemed important to reiterate how important it is that work in the area of communications takes a prime position in our vocation and mission as lay faithful, all of whom are called to renew and perfect the temporal order and to direct it towards God through Christ (Vatican Council II, Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity Apostolicam Actuositatem, n. 7).
It is urgent now more than ever that the lay faithful become fully aware of the new challenges that the rapid development of communications technology poses for the Church. Both the last Synod of Bishops on “new evangelisation” and the recent Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis Evangelii gaudiuum, greatly emphasised the missionary nature of the Church, and thus how important it is not to neglect the lifestyles of the contemporary person so that the beauty and joy of announcing the Gospel is capable of reaching everyone. Undoubtedly the digital domain is becoming one of the most relevant among these lifestyles.
Finally, in light of the Assembly’s title and choice of speakers - all of whom have the highest prestigious standing in their field - particular attention will be paid to the current situation of the development of the “digital world”, avoiding easy simplifications that lead on the one hand to an excessive enthusiasm that refuses to acknowledge the risks and problems that the web is integrating among young people and adults alike, or on the other hand to a closed-minded pre-conception, seeing only the risks involved and ultimately blocking a proper use of the new extraordinary possibilities offered by the internet.
Participation in the assembly is reserved to members and advisors of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.
The structure of the programme is as follows: the first day will be led by Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, President of the Dicastery, an will serve as an introductory one, focusing on the announcing of the Gospel throughout the globalized world, paying particular attention to the Magisterium. Next there will be talks by Prof. Mario Pollo on the virtual world and its developments, by prof. Tonino Cantelmi on the psychological structure and identity of the contemporary man that uses these new methods, and by Father Antonio Spadaro on evangelisation on the web.
On the second day there will be two important round tables. The first will focus on problems emerging from the diffusion of the internet. The floor will be given to top representatives from the areas of psychiatry, psychology and the science of communications. They will deal with the following themes: social networks (Vincenzo Comodo); “digital natives” (Michela Pensavalli); violence in relation to the web and different dependencies on the web (Luigi Janiri); emerging techno-religiousness (Angelo Romeo).
The second round table will focus upon: the great opportunities offered by the internet, in the field of information (Michele Zanzucchi); the institutional presence on the web (Daniel Arasa); initiatives of solidarity that have arisen out of and are favoured by the web (Michel Roy); education methods of how to use the internet (Jonah Lynch). The second day will be concluded with a talk by S.E. Mgr. Claudio Maria Celli, President of the Pontifical Council of Social Communications, about the Christian presence on the web and on future prospects.
The third day will be dedicated to the presentation of the Pontifical Council for the Laity’s website (Francesca Acito). S.E. Mgr Clemens, Secretary of the dicastery, will talk about the current activities and plans of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and above all about the audience of the Holy Father which will be the true crowning achievement of our plenary Assembly.