Bishop John shares message for 58th World Communications Day

Wednesday 8th May 2024

This Sunday, the Church marks World Communications Day with the theme “Artificial Intelligence and the Wisdom of the Heart: Towards a Fully Human Communication.”

In his message for the day, Bishop John reflects on Pope Francis’ message for the 58th World Communications Day and how artificial intelligence can be placed at the service of a fully human communication.

Bishop John – who is Lead Bishop for Communications for the Bishops Conference of England and Wales – reiterates Pope Francis’ stance that communication needs to be authentic and human and we must speak from that most human of organs: the heart.

Speaking to the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, Bishop John said;

“Just about every invention that we have, there’s a negative side, and we’ve got to be sure to identify that,” he says.

“The human heart can help our discernment as to what is good for humanity, what progresses who we are, what adds to our dignity, our well-being, but also to identify those things that are not so positive, those things that can be destructive.”

The Bishop pointed out that as Christians, “we rely very much on the guidance of the Spirit, on providence in our lives, to guide us in much of what we do”.

As such, “machines can’t dictate that for us. We’ve got to maintain a sense of independent thinking, independent discernment and wisdom in order to find the best way forward. What is God asking of us as individuals? As a community? As a global humanity?

Let’s use machines to assist us in what we’re doing to make our world a better place, to enhance the way we live. But let’s not allow machines in any way to think for us or to make decisions which are not appropriate.”

When we focus on the positives of Artificial Intelligence, the speed at which information can be gathered and shared, how it can be made more accessible to people across the globe – the so-called ‘death of distance’ – we can see examples of how the technology is enabling a global audience to access what the Church says on any given subject. Magisterium AI is a chatbot that makes the teaching of the Catholic Church available 24/7 at incredible speed using more than 6,000 documents as its knowledge base.

Bishop Arnold considers it a very useful bank of knowledge but added that it is important to to identify clear boundaries as to what is good and useful or what needs to be avoided.

“It has the technical ability to give you exactly what you’re looking for in an instant, instead of wandering through a library and looking through thousands of pages, hoping that what you want is in a particular volume. It does it all for you, and that’s something which is making learning accessible.

It’s not changing learning, and it’s not dictating anything that hasn’t been approved as being Magisterium of the Church. It’s simply keeping in a store, in an enormous bank with wonderful search facilities, what the teaching of the Church is and how that applies to us. That’s a real asset, but it’s not intelligence.”

The technology could be of enormous value to us, but we’ve got to identify clear boundaries as to what can be good and useful and what really needs to be avoided.”

So on World Communications Day, Bishop John is encouraging Catholics to maintain independent thinking and discernment in the use of artificial intelligence and not allow machines to replace human thinking and decisions.

World Communications Day will be celebrated on Sunday 12 May 2024.

The Bishops’ Conference have prepared materials for World Communications Day which can be found here .

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