Vatican City (Reuters)-Pope Benedict XVI gave a blessing qualified social networking Monday, praising its potential, but beware that friendships online are no substitute for real human contact.
The Pontiff of 83 years, who do not have their own Facebook account, established from his point of view in a message with a heavy title that fits easily in a tweet: "Truth, proclamation and authenticity of life in the digital age".
Said the possibilities of new media and social networks offered "a great opportunity", but warned of the risks of depersonalization, alienation, self-indulgence and dangers have more friends than virtual reality.
"It is important to always remember that virtual contact cannot and should not take the place of direct human contact with people at every level of our life," Benedict said in his message for world communications day of the Catholic Church.
He urged users of social networks to wonder "who is my ' perfect ' in this new world?" and avoid the danger of always is available online, but to be "less present to those we encounter in our daily lives".
The wide horizons of new media "urgently demand a serious reflection on the importance of communication in the digital age," he said.
The Pope does not mention any specific social networking website or application by name, but sprinkled his message with terms such as "sharing," of "friends" and "profiles".
Said social networking can help "dialogue, sharing, solidarity and creating positive relationships", but also provided a list of warnings.
"Entering cyberspace can be a sign of an authentic search for personal meetings with others, provided that it is careful to avoid the dangers, as if you were around in some sort of parallel existence, or excessive exposure to the virtual world," he said.
"In search of sharing, of ' friends ', there is the challenge of being genuine and faithful and not succumb to the illusion of artificial construct a public profile for themselves".
The Pope is known to write by hand, most of his speeches, while his aides to manage his forays into cyberspace. In 2009, a new site, www.pope2you.net, went live, offering an application called "the Pope is on Facebook," and another that allows people to see the Pope's speeches and messages on their iPhone or iPod.
The Vatican has notoriously egg on his face in 2009, when it was forced to admit that, if it had sailed on the web anymore, it might have known that a traditionalist Bishop was revoked the excommunication was for years a Holocaust denier.
(Editing by Mark Trevelyan)