.- A bishop from Lebanon shared at the 2018 Synod of Bishops how his online catechesis program in Arabic has helped him to unite young Catholics across the Middle East.
“Thanks to the web I am able to connect many young people from the Middle East. We’ve also had conversions of young people who have recognized Jesus through our social presence,” Bishop Joseph Naffah said at the a Vatican press conference Oct. 19.
Synod fathers from Africa, South America, and the Middle East spoke Friday about their hopes for the future of evangelization and catechesis in a digital age.
Bishop Naffah is the auxiliary bishop of the Maronite Catholic eparchy of Joubbé, Sarba, and Jounieh in Lebanon.
For five years Naffah has been running an online catechetical program that connects over 500 Arabic-speaking Catholic students in conversations about the faith.
Students in the online program include youth in prison, as well as young people with disabilities.
“I’ve been moved in particular by one person who is totally paralyzed,” Bishop Naffah said.
While positive about the potential of online catechesis, the Maronite bishop also expressed concern that there are websites that contain false Catholic teaching online.
Naffah sees a need for a mechanism for Vatican approval of catechesis and teaching shared online, such as a special office to monitor Catholic webpages and then certify sites that accurately reflect the teachings of the Catholic Church.
Bishop Kofi Fianu of Ho, Ghana has also found success connecting with young people in Africa through the daily online Bible reflections that he shares with them.
“From this apostolate of digital reflections I have been in contact with many of the youth,” said Bishop Fianu. “They interact with me. They ask questions about what I have written in the reflection.”
“All of us, first of all, we the bishops, clergy need to be real ministers of the word. When we are able to drink deeply into the word of God, when we are on fire for this word, we can transmit it faithfully and more actively to the youth and the rest of the members of the Church,” Fianu continued.
Father Valdir Jose Castro from Brazil said that young people know the language and the grammar of the world of social media and are crucial in assisting the Church to reach out and open the doors.
“The Church needs to study in depth and improve its understanding of technology and the internet in particular so as to discern how she should live there and where fertile soil can be found,” Father Castro said.
The internet is a venue where the Church can encourage young people to be “protagonists in evangelization, not just the beneficiaries.”