Let us reflect: only a few decades ago, if we say that we are live (we would say “alive,” but let us accept this little grammatical mistake) we would think that we are affirming our own existence. But not today. Today when you say “we are live” it means that you are probably streaming on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram or one of the other platforms that form a great part of our modern lives. And this is not only true in general, but also in our spiritual life, because religions cannot neglect to use these new platforms of communication for their own ends and their own goals. Let us consider how the Catholic Church now relies on these platforms in our given situation, the present pandemic that has taken the world by storm.
Recently the Vatican had announced that the Pope will resume his weekly audiences using the internet and not allow people to gather in his presence. Recently he tried to have an audience with few people, in a space that was much smaller than Saint Peter’s Square, but infections did not stop to spread there, and so it was decided that the words of the Pope would come via internet.
There is an important point to reflect upon, which is also related to the present pandemic. How much has this pandemic affected the practice of Italian Catholics? I have to say that the answer is not very difficult. Certainly the pandemic has affected religious practice a lot, in the sense that there are few people going to Mass – this can be easily observed. But it would be a mistake if we think that this is caused by the pandemic, because we must remember that before the coronavirus, the same Pope warned us that we are no more living in a “Christian world.”
So the Covid infection has made manifest and has accelerated a process that has been already going on for decades. It would be a great mistake to think that the disaffection for religion has started recently, because we must remember that Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI already talked a lot about this secularization process. There are many theories on the causes and many controversies around the remedies. I will not touch on that here.
I want just to point out that the internet will play a very fundamental role in the future of religion, probably much bigger than that was thought previously. It is not difficult to understand a very simple fact: at one point in time we will get rid of the coronavirus, but the psychological impact of this pandemic will last much much longer. This also includes the issue of social distancing, the fear to be close to other people that has now been in our mind for months. So the internet will play, will have to play a major role in the evangelization efforts of every religion. Of course “content is king,” but this is a topic for another article.