Monday, April 9, 2018

Pope Shows the Way to Modernity in "Call to Holiness"

Pope Francis published a remarkable document today, called the "Gaudete et exsultate", an exhortation to holiness. He says its goal is to "repropose the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time". The philosophy of the document is bold and modern.
Pope Francis, Call to Holiness

 Each of its 177 numbered paragraphs, in five named chapters, contains an expression of wisdom and a practical view on what it is to live a holy life. It is very much worth reading and meditating upon, whatever your faith.

The document resonates on many levels. It calls for acting with "Joy and a Sense of Humor", for "Going Against the Flow", and importantly, emphasizes that charity is the highest virtue. A summary in the New York Times highlights the teaching, found in paragraph 101, that caring for the poor and immigrant are as holy as the opposition to abortion:

...Our defence of the innocent unborn, for example, needs to be clear, firm and passionate, for at stake is the dignity of a human life, which is always sacred and demands love for each person, regardless of his or her stage of development. Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia, the victims of human trafficking, new forms of slavery, and every form of rejection.[84] We cannot uphold an ideal of holiness that would ignore injustice in a world where some revel, spend with abandon and live only for the latest consumer goods, even as others look on from afar, living their entire lives in abject poverty.
It is also refreshingly modern in its form and format. It is published in HTML, with a clear and consistent structure (numbered paragraphs, chapters). Its references all have hyperlinks to the footnotes, and the footnotes themselves are hyperlinked to original sources!



At the top of the document is a list of social media links (FB, Twitter, Google +, email...), as well as a link to print and pdf for old-school applications. It also has been translated into many languages and has links to those versions at the top.

It even has breadcrumbs placing this document in context of the other documents on the website.

It comes in a mobile version, and the document redirects to the correct format for your device: http://m.vatican.va/content/francescomobile/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20180319_gaudete-et-exsultate.html

Each of these components was clearly well thought-out, and underscores, subtly, Pope Francis' call to modernity. While he warns us not to be "caught up in superficial information, instant communication and virtual reality", he does not reject technology itself, and indeed has published an (almost) thoroughly modern document. The one step that is missing is to provide a hyperlinkable structure for the document. If each numbered paragraph had an id, for example, it would be possible to link directly to the paragraph, like : http://m.vatican.va/content/francescomobile/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20180319_gaudete-et-exsultate.html#p101

If the Vatican is interested in taking this additional step, I would be very happy to consult on how to convert this and other papal declarations into fully standardized Akoma Ntoso.