Digital Synod brings Catholic Church ‘closer to digital natives’
The “Digital Synod” reached an estimated 20 million people and gleaned tens of thousands of responses from non-Catholics and non-believers, according to Fr Jeffrey Segovia, who points out that real people lie behind all the clicks and likes that fill social media.
Father Jeffrey Segovia attended the Synod Continental Assembly for Asia held in Bangkok on 24-26 February. The Filipino priest brought the voice of all those who participated in the Digital Synod on Synodality, promoted by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication.
In an interview with Vatican News on the sidelines of the Assembly, Fr Segovia explained the importance of holding synodal conversations in the digital realm, saying that he has learned much from the unique experience.
Why a digital synod?
Fr Segovia explained that a “digital synod” was necessary for the Church, since it offered an opportunity to reach out online to people who have no formal contact with parishes or Church institutions.
“One of the realities that we have now in the Church is the existence of a new technology. And one of the things that we also have to admit is the presence of those in the digital media. Behind all the profiles, the clicks, the likes and the follows, are real persons.”
What is a ‘digital synod’?
Fr Segovia said the digital synod was, first of all, “an effort from the Dicastery for Communication, which also acknowledges the presence of the faithful in the digital culture, in the digital media, which also has its own digital language.”
The Synod was “digital” not only because it was “held digitally,” Fr Segovia noted, but because it tapped into “those who are already in the digital media, i.e. ‘influencers’ from all over the world.”
They were able to “involve their followers” in the Church’s effort of listening to as-wide-an audience as possible, Fr Segovia explained.
It also provided the Church the opportunity “to accompany them”, since they are also members of the Church.
What surprises were there?
One of the surprises Father noted was that “there's a lot of them actually!”
“Tapping digital influencers through TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and the like,” he reported that the digital synod was able to reach an estimated 20 million people.
Over 110,000 responses were received as a result.
“What is surprising is that 10% of those responses came from non-believers and non-Catholics.”
Fr Segovia said that giving them the “opportunity to be listened to” had a positive impact on many of those who participated.
What issues were raised?
As in the traditional consultations that took place, Fr Segovia confirmed that one of the issues raised in the digital synod was that of not being listened to and the perception of clericalism.
But one issue specifically noted by digital synod participants is that “the Church does not know the language. Those in the digital world, oftentimes find it difficult to communicate with the Church.”
However, Fr Segovia said, those who participated acknowledged that pastoral ministers are seeking to “draw closer” to them.
“They also felt that they can speak to the people of the Church,” more rapidly since many priests and men and women religious have social media accounts through which they can reach them more easily.
The hope which digital synod participants expressed, according to Fr Segovia, is that since their issues have been taken into consideration, and their voices have been heard, “that we can advance together and move forward to a better future for the Church.”
Sr Bernadette M. Reis