ROME – In a message to a commission addressing cybercrime, the Vatican’s top diplomat warned of the dangers that come with new technologies and underscored the pope’s commitment to this issue, especially in the protection of children.
“Technological progress has brought with it enormous benefits, yet the dark side of our new digital world cannot be underestimated,” said Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State.
His comments were included in a statement sent to participants in the Annual Meeting of the Commission for the Prevention of Crimes and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ), who are meeting in Vienna May 14-18 this years to address the issue of “cybercrime.”
Parolin wrote that a downside of new technologies is “the spread of new forms of criminal activity,” adding that older forms are now also provided with “new and extremely powerful tools.”
He said that combating these criminal activities is a responsibility of the commission and that the United Nations is considering the addition of the issue to its Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDG) for 2030, a plan of action focused on peace, prosperity and sustainability.
The Vatican’s head diplomat spoke of goal 16, which “rightly highlights the urgent need to end all forms of violence against children.”
This issue is “of great interest and attention on the part of Pope Francis,” he added. In October of this year, the Vatican hosted a summit on cybersecurity and children where it reiterated its commitment to the safety and protection of children.
Titled “Child Dignity in the Digital World,” the conference brought together leading experts on child protection, law enforcement officials, executives of Internet and social media companies, NGOs, and others, to discuss how to promote child welfare online.
At its conclusion, Parolin wrote, the pope gave “his full support” to the Rome Declaration, a document promoting a united and global approach to end child exploitation on the internet.
“Pope Francis is convinced that a worthy sustainable development can be attained only if children, who are the future of the human family, are made the center of attention, and experience encouragement and protection in the years decisive for their growth,” Parolin said.
He then pointed to the many and “clear examples of horrendous crimes that can in no way be tolerated,” from cyberbullying to ‘sextortion,’ from the presence of explicit violence and sexuality on the internet to human trafficking and radicalization.
“The Holy See and the Catholic Church are conscious of their role in forming consciences and raising public awareness,” the cardinal said. “In this effort, within our constantly evolving world the role of the United Nations, and the UNODC in particular, is crucial.”