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Filipinos called to be online missionaries

Philippine church leaders called on Filipinos to become “new online missionaries” and use their technological expertise for evangelization and to “communicate the core message of Jesus.”

Studies done by “We Are Social” and “Hootsuite” noted that in the past four years the Philippines is tops in worldwide social media use and in terms of internet usage in front of a computer.

Bishop Mylo Hubert Vergara, chairman of the social communications and mass media office of the bishops’ conference, said the Church “cannot be static and must be dynamic.”

“Every day, you have to have to think about new strategies (and) creative tactics to make sure that one can be able to connect,” he told this year’s Catholic Social Media Summit in Manila on Nov. 16.

“Have you ever wondered why Pope Francis clicks?” he participants of the annual gathering. “He has one core message from the Lord: Mercy,” said the prelate.

Bishop Vergara, however, reminded participants, most of whom work for church social communications offices, to live in “compassionate communion” to be able to connect with the people.

“We cannot be social media hermits,” he said. “We cannot be stuck in that digital environment,” he added.

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The prelate has repeatedly called on church media practitioners to explore further how communication can be used for communion building.

Echoing Pope Francis message for this year’s World Communications Day, he urged the responsible use of the internet to help build Christian communities.

Social media awards

Several Church institutions were given recognition at the Catholic Social Media Awards at the end of the daylong summit.

Monsignor Pedro Quitorio, media director of the bishops’ conference, said the awards were designed “to motivate everybody to deliver content that counters organized disinformation.”

The priest stressed that “the best way to do new evangelization is through witness” that can be shared instantly through social media.

Monsignor Quitorio said changes in the social, political, and pastoral landscape in the country prompted the establishment of the awards four years ago.

He said the annual awards is the answer to what he described as the “crisis of the lamp stand.”

“We were made to believe that we do not let our left hand know what our right hand does,” he said.

“But we were also told that you have to put that lamp on the lamp stand, (and) not to hide it under a bushel basket,” added the priest.

He cited how the silence of the Church about its work in helping the poor has been abused by “politics and the bullies” only because it was not seen on social media.

“We thought that this will provoke people to put the lamp on the lamp stand. Let’s write it, let’s post it, let’s share it, let’s make it viral. And we can tell the truth,” said Monsignor Quitorio.

The Catholic Social Media Awards was established by YouthPinoy, a group of young people, in 2015. It aims to encourage and instill a “sense of responsibility” among online communicators.

Now on its fourth year, the annual event gives recognition to dioceses, parishes, and church groups that are involved in evangelization through the “digital world.”

Among the winners of this year’s awards are Italian priest Luciano Felloni who was named “Best Male Social Media Influencer” for his daily video reflections that have become viral.

The number of social media users in the Philippines has grown from 67 million to 76 million early this year, according to recent studies done by social media groups.

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