VATICAN CITY - The often superficial high-speed world of digital social media needs an injection of calm, reflection and tenderness if it is to be "a network not of wires but of people", Pope Francis said on Thursday.
Francis, in his message for the Roman Catholic Church's World Communications Day, also said that while Catholics should cherish and defend their ideas and traditions, they should never be so smug as to claim that "they alone are valid or absolute".
He again denounced the "scandalous gap" between the rich and poor, saying it was not uncommon to see the homeless sleeping on a street in the glow of opulent store window lights.
Francis said the media and the Internet, which he called "something truly good, a gift from God," could help bring people together, but that digital communications often impeded them from truly getting to know each other.
"The speed with which information is communicated exceeds our capacity for reflection and judgment, and this does not make for more balanced and proper forms of self-expression," he said in the 1,200-word message. Modern media can help "either to expand our knowledge or to lose our bearings".
"The variety of opinions being aired can be seen as helpful, but it also enables people to barricade themselves behind sources of information which only confirm their own wishes and ideas, or political and economic interests," he said.
He challenged people to be more "neighbourly" in the digital environment by not just tolerating others but also listening and trying to understand their points of view.
"We need, for example, to recover a certain sense of deliberateness and calm. This calls for time and the ability to be silent and to listen," he said.