There were a number of meetings with the Pope today in the Vatican but I felt this was one of the most significant talks that he gave, given the urgency of combating pornography in general and its effects on youth in particular.

Today, I am working on my weekend radio show, Vatican Insider, and early this evening will attend a reception at the Apostolic nunciature for the Bethlehem University Foundation. If you are curious about BU, the only Catholic University in the Middle East, take a few minutes to visit: https://www.bethlehem.edu/


Pope Francis on Thursday addressed participants in an international congress in the Vatican on the theme, “Promoting Digital Child Dignity From Concept to Action, From 2017 to 2019.”
By Robin Gomes (vaticannews)

Pope Francis on Thursday called on experts in science and technology, the media, business, legislators, parents, religious leaders and others to join hands to take concrete and urgent action to protect children from criminal violence and harm in the digital world.

“We must ban from the face of the earth violence and every form of abuse against children,” the Pope told some 80 participants in the November 14-15 congress that is being jointly hosted by the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, the Child Dignity Alliance and the United Arab Emirates Government.

“Let us look into their eyes: they are your sons and daughters; we must love them as God’s masterpieces and children,” the Pope told them, adding, “they have the right to a good life.” “We have the duty to do everything possible to ensure that right.”

Among those attending the 2-day meeting are important religious leaders from different communities, experts, academics, policymakers, and technology industry leaders.

Blessing and bane of info technology
The Pope expressed appreciation for the great opportunities that the astonishing development of technology in the information and communications media offers children, especially those in poverty and distant from urban centres.

However, the challenge is to “ensure that minors have safe access to these technologies so that “their healthy and serene development” is ensured and they are protected from “unacceptable criminal violence or grave harm to the integrity of their body and spirit.”

Tragically, the Pope noted, the use of digital technology to organize, commission and engage in child abuse at a distance, is outstripping the efforts and resources to combat such abuse.

“The spread of images of abuse or the exploitation of minors is increasing exponentially, involving ever more serious and violent forms of abuse and ever younger children.” The Pope blamed the dramatic growth of pornography in the digital world on the general loss of the sense of human dignity, which, he said, is frequently linked to human trafficking.

What is even more disturbing, the Pope said, is the fact that pornography is widely accessible to minors in the digital media, leading them to grave addiction, violent behaviour and troubled emotional and sexual relationships.

Concrete and urgent action
Drawing attention to the theme of their congress, “From Concept to Action,” Pope Francis said, “it is not enough to understand; we must act.” The moral condemnation of the harm inflicted on minors needs urgently to be translated into concrete initiatives. “The longer we wait,” he warned, “the more entrenched and insurmountable this evil becomes.”

Balance between free expression and good of society
In this regard, he called for a fitting balance between the legitimate exercise of freedom of expression and the interests of society, so as to ensure that digital media are not used to perpetrate criminal activities against minors.

He lamented that for the sake of advancing the development of the Internet and its many benefits, companies that provide services have long considered themselves mere suppliers of technological platforms, neither legally nor morally responsible for the way they are used.

Despite the enormous potential of digital technology, the Pope said, the negative impact of its abuse in the area of human trafficking, the planning of terrorist activities, the spread of hatred and extremism, the manipulation of information and in the area child abuse, is equally significant.

Pope Francis called for appropriate legislative and executive measures to counter criminal activities that harm the life and dignity of minors.

Corporate responsibility
He also appealed to large digital technology companies “to assume their responsibility towards minors, their integrity and their future.”

One way of ensuring this is for Internet service providers to prevent minors from accessing pornographic sites by verifying their age. In this regard, the Pope expressed alarm at studies showing the average age of first access to pornography is currently eleven and tends to keep lowering, which, he said, “is in no way acceptable.”

While encouraging the industry to cooperate with parents in their educational responsibilities, the Holy Father also urged computer engineers to use artificial intelligence technologies to identify and eliminate illegal and harmful images from online circulation and help develop and create a new ethics for our time.



(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received the participants in the first-ever World Congress on Child Dignity in the Digital World on Friday. The Centre for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University hosted the four-day event, which brought experts in child care, internet security, law enforcement, education, and a host of other fields together to share experiences and best practices, with a view to addressing the problem of the effective protection of the dignity of minors in the digital world.

Child dignity – a crisis and a response in context

In remarks prepared for the participants and delivered to them in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace shortly after noon on Friday, Pope Francis placed the challenges facing individuals and whole societies the world, over, in the context of the struggle not only to articulate, but effectively to guarantee, the rights and dignity of every person – especially the weakest and most vulnerable, and chief among these, children and young people – on which the human family has embarked and in which the Church has been engaged especially since the drafting of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 1959 Declaration on the Rights of the Child.

“As representatives of various scientific disciplines and the fields of digital communications, law and political life,” Pope Francis said, “you [participants in the World Congress] have come together precisely because you realize the gravity of these challenges linked to scientific and technical progress.” He went on to say, “With great foresight, you have concentrated on what is probably the most crucial challenge for the future of the human family: the protection of young people’s dignity, their healthy development, their joy and their hope.”

Speaking specifically of the danger the proliferation of pornographic material poses in the digital age, Pope Francis said, “The spread of printed pornography in the past was a relatively small phenomenon compared to the proliferation of pornography on the net.”

He went on to say, “[W]e must not let ourselves be overcome by fear, which is always a poor counsellor, nor let ourselves be paralyzed by the sense of powerlessness that overwhelms us before the difficulty of the task,” at hand.

“Rather,” he said, “we are called to join forces, realizing that we need one another in order to seek and find the right means and approaches needed for effective responses.”

Painful lessons – profound commitment

Pope Francis also spoke of the painful lessons the Church has learned through her recent experience with clerical sex abuse, saying that the Church has come to acknowledge her own failures in providing for the protection of children. “[E]xtremely grave facts have come to light,” he said, “for which we have to accept our responsibility before God, before the victims and before public opinion.” The Pope went on to say, “For this very reason, as a result of these painful experiences and the skills gained in the process of conversion and purification, the Church today feels especially bound to work strenuously and with foresight for the protection of minors and their dignity, not only within her own ranks, but in society as a whole and throughout the world.”

The pernicious effects of mainstreaming pornography

The Holy Father also discussed the pernicious effects that the so-called “mainstreaming” of pornography – not only its broad and ready availability, but also the acceptance of it by society – on adults. “We rightly insist on the gravity of these problems for minors,” he said, “but we can also underestimate or overlook the extent that they are also problems for adults.”

The Pope noted that the spread of ever more extreme pornography and other improper uses of the internet not only causes disorders, dependencies and grave harm among adults, but also has a real impact on the way we view love and relations between the sexes. “We would be seriously deluding ourselves,” he said, “were we to think that a society where an abnormal consumption of internet sex is rampant among adults could be capable of effectively protecting minors.”

Warning against a “technocratic” approach to the problem

“The second mistaken approach would be to think that automatic technical solutions, filters devised by ever more refined algorithms in order to identify and block the spread of abusive and harmful images, are sufficient to deal with these problems,” he said. “But there is also an urgent need, as part of the process of technological growth itself, for all those involved to acknowledge and address the ethical concerns that this growth raises, in all its breadth and its various consequences.”

What the internet is, and is not

A third risk of which we must be aware in our approach to the digital world is the deluded notion that “the net” is or should be a realm of unlimited freedom.

While the internet and other technologies that are part of the contours, content, and structures of this new digital world have opened vast new fora for free expression and free exchange of ideas and information, it has also offered new means for engaging in heinous illicit activities, including the abuse of minors and offences against their dignity, the corruption of their minds and violence against their bodies.

“This,” said Pope Francis, “has nothing to do with the exercise of freedom: it has to do with crimes that need to be fought with intelligence and determination, through a broader cooperation among governments and law enforcement agencies on the global level, even as the net itself is now global.”

Final Declaration

Toward this end, the participants produced a final document, The Declaration of Rome, which includes its own urgent call to action.

Pope Francis received the Declaration from a young girl participating in the Congress, who gave it to him “on behalf of millions of young people around the world who need information and far more protection from the risks of sexual and other forms of abuse on the internet.”

CLICK HERE FOR FULL SPEECH: http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-francis-speech-to-world-congress-on-child-dig