It was reported yesterday that Pope Benedict XVI has made several new appointments to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. This dicastery's role is becoming more and more important as the Pope seeks to encourage all Christians to share their joy with others via means of modern social communications - which includes blogging and the new media. In encouraging a Christian presence within all forms of social communication, especially the new media, the Council offers invaluable support to another dicastery, the recently created Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelisation.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York
Four cardinals were appointed as members of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications yesterday. They include Cardinal Josip Bozanic, Archbishop of Zagreb; Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay; Cardinal John Njue, Archbishop of Nairobi; and Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, Archbishop of Kinshasa. Cardinal Njue is known in his native Kenya as a great defender of human life, who has often spoken against abortion and has also pointed to the fact that condoms are not an effective method of preventing the transmission of HIV. Cardinal Monsengwo Pasinya is a member of one of the royal families of Basakata and was fundamental in drafting a new constitution for the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1990s. He is highly respected in Africa as a champion of human rights, a promoter of peace and as a courageous defender of the truth as an absolute and objective reality. Recently, he contested the results of this month's DRC Presidential elections, claiming they were "neither real nor just". Cardinal Pasinya is considered papabile - a possible successor to Pope Benedict XVI. Sadly, though, it doesn't seem as if his Archdiocese has much of an online presence.

Amongst the bishops who were appointed to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications yesterday is the Archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan. The others who will be joining him are Archbishop Mark Benedict Coleridge of Canberra and Goulburn; Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelisation; Bishop Manuel Jose Macario do Nascimento Clemente of Porto; Bishop Joseph Befe Ateba of Kribi; and Bishop Barthelemy Adoukonou, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture. Archbishop Dolan is well known for his outspoken defence of marriage and for opposing abortion - he even received a standing ovation during his Installation Mass for reaffirming the Church's mission "to embrace and protect the dignity of every human person, the sanctity of human life, from the tiny baby in the womb to the last moment of natural passing into eternal life." He also has his own blog, The Gospel in the Digital Age - a sign that he is well aware of the need to for Christians to be present online.

Several men and women were also appointed as consultors of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. Amongst those listed are Fr Antonino Spadaro SJ, Director of "Civilta Cattolica"; Fr Eric Salobir OP, General Assistant for Social Communications within the Dominican Order in France; Fr Augustine Savarimuthu SJ, Director of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Social Communications of the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome; Sr Dominica Dipio OP, Associate Professor of Literature at the Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda; Antonio Preziosi, Director of "Giornale Radio Rai" and "Rai Radio Uno"; Marco Tarquinio, Director of the newspaper "Avvenire"; Mr Paul Wuthe, Secretary of the Media Commission of the Austrian Bishops' Conference; Mr Greg Erlandson, President of the Catholic Press Association in the USA; and Mr Gian Maria Vian, Director of "L'Osservatore Romano".

With such illustrious appointments, it seems that the Holy Father is keen to support the work of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. In this world of mass communications and social networking, the Church must adapt rapidly to new ways of proclaiming the Gospel. In that sense, the new members of this Pontifical Council have an important contribution to make to the life and mission of the the universal Church. We who use the new media and who have the privilege of being called Christian (even if we don't always honour that name) also have a need to seek guidance from the Holy Father and his Council for Social Communications, so that we can truly discern the Christ-like way "of being present in the digital world..., which is honest and open, responsible and respectful of others" (Pope Benedict XVI, Message for the 45th World Communciations' Day)