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Introducing ePaul, Aleteia's prompt assist for World Communications Day (and beyond)

Aleteia

Elizabeth Scalia - published on 05/23/17

As Pope calls for "an open and creative style" of evangelizing, bot gives Catholics a new way to connect and encourage

World Communications Day is Sunday, May 28, and Pope Francis’ message delivered in anticipation of it is inspiring:

I am convinced that we have to break the vicious circle of anxiety and stem the spiral of fear resulting from a constant focus on “bad news” (wars, terrorism, scandals and all sorts of human failure). This has nothing to do with spreading misinformation that would ignore the tragedy of human suffering, nor is it about a naive optimism blind to the scandal of evil. Rather, I propose that all of us work at overcoming that feeling of growing discontent and resignation that can at times generate apathy, fear or the idea that evil has no limits. Moreover, in a communications industry which thinks that good news does not sell, and where the tragedy of human suffering and the mystery of evil easily turn into entertainment, there is always the temptation that our consciences can be dulled or slip into pessimism. I would like, then, to contribute to the search for an open and creative style of communication that never seeks to glamourize evil but instead to concentrate on solutions and to inspire a positive and responsible approach on the part of its recipients. I ask everyone to offer the people of our time storylines that are at heart “good news”.

For Aleteia, it felt like the Holy Father was speaking to our hearts, as this is precisely the mindset that we embrace; his invitation to seek out “open and creative styles of communication” got our imaginations working. We thought about Saint Paul, and his epistles and how he might use digital media, and artificial intelligences and bots and voila! Suddenly, “ePaul” came into being:

For most Catholics, evangelization is that uncomfortable nudge to verbally share their faith with others. While the spirit is willing, the tongue isn’t really sure how best to proceed. Well now…there is an app for that. Commissioned by Aleteia.org in an effort to support World Communications Day, ePaul is a chatbot designed to help the universal church answer Pope Francis’ call to confidently share the good news using stories of hope, faith, trust, and love. The multi-lingual bot was inspired by one of the greatest evangelists St. Paul, and was even programmed with a personality to pay homage to the brave apostle. By simply answering a few questions about who the user is trying to reach, ePaul will quickly retrieve a few curated articles from Aleteia’s extensive archive that he thinks will suit the situation.

So, if you have a loved one who has shared a dream with you, you can tell ePaul about him or her, and ePaul will scurry into Aleteia’s deep archives and offer a selection of pieces for you to share with that relation. If a Facebook acquaintance shares bad news, or expresses a personal suffering, ePaul will help you to find something to share in that instance, too. Whether you wish to reach out and connect with someone to encourage them with their hopes and aspirations, or to let them know you are with them in their fear, or even if you just want to say “I’m thinking about you,” ePaul can help you share a message of encouragement, consolation, and faith. We’ll be frequently adding and updating content, too.

Let’s have a little bot of creative outreach in observance of World Communications Day, and then beyond. If you’ve ever thought you’d love to be a bigger part of the New Evangelization, but didn’t know how to begin, you can begin here, with your AI fellow-worker in the fields of the Lord, ePaul.

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Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
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