Patriarch Kirill: People online need pastoral care, but priests must be very cautious

Moscow, December 25, 2020

Photo: Photo:     

His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia headed the 2020 Moscow Diocesan Assembly yesterday, touching upon, among other things, the presence and role of clerics on social networks. The internet is an important area for pastoral care today, the Patriarch said, though priests must be very careful to maintain their priestly dignity and priorities intact.

The Patriarch recalled that the 2019 Assembly proposed the topic, “The presence of a priest on social networks: positive experiences and dangers,” for consideration at pastoral conferences, adding that the period of quarantine made this topic even more relevant. He also noted that the materials from these conferences were one of his sources for preparing his report for this year’s Assembly, reports

“Of course, we can’t leave the many people involved in social networks without pastoral care. At the same time, it’s obvious that not every priest can be a social network preacher and that social networks conceal their own special temptations for a priest,” Pat. Kirill said.

A priest engaged in evangelization work online should have a good education and a generally high cultural level, the Patriarch said. And according to the general opinion of the participants of the various pastoral conferences, such priests should first of all be a pastor “with many years of experience in bringing people to Christ.”

And as people turn more and more to electronic devices to fulfill all their needs, one of the tasks of priests today is to help people understand the importance of participating in real parish life, and especially in the holy Eucharist and Divine services, the Patriarch said.

It’s also important to be aware that online communications do not necessarily allow for privacy, especially in matters of confession and spiritual counseling.

Online priests must also remember that their calling is to bring people to Christ, not to themselves, though social networks present the temptation of creating a cult of personality.

Moreover, online activities must not take away from the priest’s participation in the liturgical life and other activities of his parish. If a priest-blogger, for instance, has more followers than parishioners in his parish, there is a real temptation for him to simply become a blogger who talks about the spiritual life and to cease being a real pastor. And more seriously, the celebration of the Divine services and the holy Eucharist could begin to take second place in his life.

Priests must make a sober assessment of their activities, preferably with the advice of more experienced clerics or their bishop. Unfortunately, there have been cases of priests becoming so immersed online that they transform into life coaches or psychologists and decide to give up their priesthood, His Holiness said.

Online priests must also be careful to maintain their priestly dignity, Pat. Kirill emphasized. They must not to stoop to insults or threats or simple attempts just to entertain people.

“A priest, sometimes very young, begins to think that he is an experienced pastor—so many subscribers!—able to answer the many questions that come to him in virtual reality,” His Holiness continued. “Such clerics often lose the ability to accept any criticism, and not only on the internet, or respond to objections with endless arguments. The cure for this disease should be sought in prayer, in the humble acceptance of advice and guidance from fellow men.”

Of course, a priest can have his own point of view on what is happening in the world, but it should be based upon a “thoughtful theological and prayerful assessment.”

“Church ministry should be a matter of proclaiming the Good News of Christ Jesus, of the Kingdom of God come in power (cf. Mark 9:1), and not of personal evaluations or polemics,” Pat. Kirill concluded.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Vkontakte, Telegram, WhatsApp, Parler, MeWe, and Gab!


Benjamin12/27/2020 10:06 pm
The Internet, as the predominant form of Human communication these days, has definitely led to a dramatic increase in rudeness and other negative traits. In fact, if you're involved in debates on the 'net, the "winner" is often the one who is the rudest & most obnoxious, and who has the charisma to to amass the largest number of followers to "like" his posts or respond in trolling the opposition-- basically, democracy in action, a system wherein skillfulness in rhetoric outweighs the truthfulness of one's statements or rationality of one's arguments. Socrates made similar arguments in the BC-era of Athens in his criticisms of democracy as mob rule, as did the US Founding Fathers ("democracy is two wolves and one sheep deciding on what to have for dinner. Liberty is a well armed sheep contesting the vote"). The longer we go on in history, the more knowledge we have about the world because of the Internet connecting us all, the more King Soloman's observations on Human-nature in Ecclesiastes 1:9 ("What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun") are proven and solidified. Not only this, but the nature of online communities allows people to virtually wall themselves off into echo-chambers wherein weird, radical, anti-social or dysfunctional ideas can fester and become the predominant force in one's life-- the opposite environment of that would be the local community church, wherein one is *forced* to interact with those from different generations, occupations, intelligence levels, etc, see things from other POVs, and develop (ideally) a more holistic and balanced world-view, or at least be open to other peoples' ideas, as opposed to responding with hostility the moment another person has a different take. I myself fell into such toxic online communities for many years, and my experience there-in, and my life attitude since un-plugging, has led to a newfound appreciation for the Christian virtues, such as not having excessive pride in one's self or rational capacity. Even if one's ability to reason is superior to others', even if you're usually right, reason alone does not equal being right about XYZ, much less actually following through on that and doing it. As one Greek philosopher, whose name currently escapes me, once said "the mind of man is to the mind of God as the mind of ape is to the mind of man". It is easy to mistake "confidence" (good) with "pride" (bad), especially of the negative sort, which is condemned by the faith. The former being a positive affirmation that one is sure about themselves and their path (i.e., "let your yes be yes and your no be no, any more is the work of the devil" - Matthew 5:37, "because you are neither hot nor cold but lukewarm, I still spit you out" - Revelation 3:16). The latter, "pride", is an over-confidence wherein one becomes totally self-contained, self-referential, self-absorbed, and unable or unwilling to even listen to or tolerate others' viewpoints, take any personal criticism (even if the criticism was an attempt to be helpful and not an attack), self-reflect on their actions or ideas, and ultimately self-improve At any rate, these things apply to all Humans, whether priest or layman, big-brained or grub-brained. In theory, even the best of us, a virtuous man and pillar of his community, is just as susceptible to these "all too human" traps & pitfalls, as the worst of us. Online communications are a great opportunity to learn and improve oneself, E.G., I would've never encountered Eastern Orthodoxy if not for the net. I'd have mistakenly thought low-church Protestantism and Roman Catholicism were all there was. But, there is definitely such a thing as the "point of diminishing returns", and, as I've found, spending all your free time debating people or trying to get more likes, and associating that with "good-ness" was a massive waste of time at best and and aiding the devil in his plans at corruption at worst
Here you can leave your comment on the present article, not exceeding 4000 characters. All comments will be read by the editors of OrthoChristian.Com.
Enter through FaceBook
Your name:
Your e-mail:
Enter the digits, seen on picture:

Characters remaining: 4000

to our mailing list

* indicates required