Pope Benedict XVI said on Thursday that the media's increasing reliance on images, fuelled by the endless development of new technologies, risked confusing real life with virtual reality.
"New technologies and the progress they bring can make it impossible to distinguish truth from illusion and can lead to confusion between reality and virtual reality," the pope said.
"Noting the influence of media on perception of reality in an ever developing world, the Holy Father on Thursday called Catholic communications experts to base their efforts in the truth of the Word of God," reports the Catholic News Agency. "The "Word,' he said, continues to be the 'fundamental and ... essential instrument of communication.'"
Saying that people who work in the Catholic press must "always put God at the top of their scale of values," if they do not wish to be just a 'clanging cymbal,' he told them that their task is "that of helping modern man to turn to Christ, the one Savior, and to keep the flame of hope alight in the world, so as to live worthily today and to adequately build the future.
"For this reason," he concluded, "I exhort you to constantly renew your personal choice for Christ, drawing on those spiritual resources which, though undervalued by the modern mentality, remain valuable, indeed, indispensable."
"The image can also become independent from reality, it can give birth to a virtual word, with various consequences -- above all the risk of indifference towards real life," he said.
He said the use of new technologies should set off "an alarm bell."
Benedict's comments came in a speech to participants at a world congress of Catholic media, organised by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.