SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina - Whether you still stick to
books or magazines or get everything online, Pope Francis
said all media should encourage and edify - not enslave.
"Back in my day - the Stone Age - when a book was good, you
read it; when the book was bad for you, you chucked it," he
told hundreds of youth in Sarajevo June 6.
The pope ended his one-day visit to the capital of this
Balkan nation meeting with young people of different
religions and ethnicities who volunteer together with the
archdiocesan St. John Paul II Center. He set aside his
prepared text and told the young people he would rather take
One young man said he read that the pope had stopped watching
TV a long time ago, and wanted to know what led him to making
The pope said he decided back in the middle of 1990 to stop
because "one night I felt that this was not doing me good, it
was alienating me" and he decided to give it up.
He did not give up on movies, however.
When he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, he would go the
archdiocesan television station to watch a recorded film he
had picked out, which didn't have the same isolating effect
on him, he said.
"Obviously, I am from the Stone Age, I'm ancient!"
Times have changed, he said, and "image" has become all
But even in this "age of the image," people should follow the
same standards that ruled back "in the age of books: choose
the things that are good for me," he said.
Those who produce or distribute content, like television
stations, have the responsibility of choosing programs that
strengthen values, that help people grow and prepare for
life, "that build up society, that move us forward, not drag
Viewers have the responsibility of choosing what's good, and
changing the channel where there is "filth" and things that
"make me become vulgar."
While the quality of content is a concern, it is also
critical to limit the amount of time one is tied to the
screen, he said.
If "you live glued to the computer and become a slave to the
computer, you lose your freedom. And if you look for obscene
programs on the computer, you lose your dignity," he said.
Later, in response to a journalist's question on the papal
plane from Sarajevo back to Rome, the pope said the online or
virtual world is a reality "that we cannot ignore; we have to
lead it along a good path" and help humanity progress.
"But when this leads you away from everyday life, family
life, social life, and also sports, the arts and we stay
glued to the computer, this is a psychological illness," he
Negative content, he said, includes pornography and content
that is "empty" or devoid of values, like programs that
encourage relativism, hedonism and consumerism.
"We know that consumerism is a cancer on society, relativism
is a cancer on society, and I will speak about this in the
next encyclical" on the environment, to be released June 18.
The pope said some parents do not allow their children to
have a computer in their own room, but keep it in a common
living space. "These are some little tips that parents find"
to deal with the problem of unsuitable content, he said.