The digital transformation of the Church, in the hands of each parish priest

The incorporation of new technologies to carry out and manage the day-to-day life of any organization It has penetrated so much that even the State has its own roadmap to comply with what has been called Digital Transformation. In the case of the Government, Digital Spain 2026It is the basic document with which we want to take advantage of new technologies to have more intense and sustained economic growth, with quality employment, greater productivity and that contributes to social and territorial cohesion.

The DESI Report (Digital Economy and Society Index) is responsible for measuring, each year, the progress made by EU Member States in terms of digital competitiveness. The latest edition is from 2023 (with data from 2022). According to these data, Spain is ranked number 7 out of the 27 Member States and is making relative progress, improving its results compared to previous years, especially with regard to the integration of digital technology (ranked number 11, five places better than in 2021), as well as in public digital services (number 5 compared to number 7 in 2021) and in terms of human capital (number 10 compared to number 12). Spain is one of the EU leaders in terms of connectivity and is ranked number 3 for the second consecutive year.

As for SMEs, the level of digital development is at the EU level (68%) and highlights the efforts “to improve the digitalization of companies” that are observed in figures: 12.3% of Spanish companies They already use Artificial Intelligence and 14.3% use Big Data for analysis and internal use.

With the Church we have encountered

However, This digital transformation seems to have not reached the Church Catholic in our country, according to the sources consulted by this newspaper. Or not, of course, as a single umbrella that affects all its classes.

The first thing that should be clarified is that, as sources from the Spanish Episcopal Conference indicate, “there is not a single Church in Spain.” Decentralization is, in fact, one of its greatest exponents and, as they say, virtues.

Thus, in Spain there are 70 dioceses, an ecclesiastical district governed by a bishop (69 are territorial and one is military, which serves the Armies). Almost 23,000 churches and almost 16,000 priests or priests depend on these dioceses.

The Episcopal Conference, as a service body to the church, It does offer certain recommendations on the use of certain technologies, but as these sources insist, these documents are made solely and exclusively as a recommendation, never an imposition. Each bishop is, therefore, free to follow these dictates or not, depending on his “sensitivities” and that of his team of collaborators. And, in turn, Each church that depends on these dioceses is free to adopt or not adopt certain technologies. Although “it has not happened nor will it happen,” a bishop could decide that, for example, no church or priest in his sphere of influence would have Instagram.

A single potential client

Taking into account that The Church is made up of almost 16,000 parish priests, it would be one of the largest “companies” in our country, since, according to the INE (National Institute of Statistics), there are only 172 business organizations with more than 5,000 employees. It is, therefore, a great potential client for any company, including technology companies.

In fact, we asked our interlocutor if they do not receive advice and advice from some large companies to rely on their technological solutions to keep better control of all the assets that are part of the Church. “Yes,” he acknowledges, and then adds that they always listen to them and entrust them to repeat these same pieces of advice to the bishops so that they are the ones who decide whether or not to opt for acquiring these solutions. “How am I going to tell a priest if he has to buy one product or another, from one brand or another, and that, in addition to his daily chores, he should keep a record of the activities he carries out?” source, adding that It is the “easy” to use technologies that end up triumphing among ecclesiastics.

Of course, the Episcopal Conference has carried out digitization projects for its documentary system and has its own servers where they save and store their information and documents.

Management and transparency

However, this same source acknowledges that “for transparency reasons” and as a way of “bringing to society everything that the Church does“, it has been coming for a long time “making an effort” pushing the adoption of a management system (ERP type) in the dioceses, which is called Omnia. “We priests do not tell everything we do,” say these sources, who believe that this system can facilitate it. Of course, “each parish priest must be convinced that reflecting everything he does in data will make it easier for everyone to know everything we do.”

It is a development ad hoc carried out by the diocese of Almería, a project that was joined by five others, and which aims to facilitate data collection in each diocese, to help each parish to have control of its own activity and the diocese to know the reality of what is being done. Other sources from the Episcopal Conference involved in this development explain to La Razón that They started this project because none of the basic accounting programs fit the requirements of the Church. It is a development carried out in .Net and with an SQL database and, when it is assumed for the rest of the dioceses, the code ends up being donated to the Episcopal Conference.

According to the Episcopal Conference, this tool is not imposed, but it is being deployed and 70% of dioceses (not churches) already have it implemented. “To the extent that the priest can, wants and knows how, he also implements this tool,” acknowledge these sources, who point out that it is very useful and valuable and that is why it is extended, “not by imposition.” For this reason, and Although the goal would be to reach 100% of the parishes with this system, the Episcopal Conference assures that they will never reach that 100%..

It should also be noted that the Diocese of Ourense also promotes gesObispado as a personalized management system, which ensures that it has 226 parishes. According to the sources consulted and in charge of the development of Omnia, gesObispado is also integrated into this solution.

Furthermore, the Episcopal Conference emphasizes that the management of priests focuses on people, not on the economic resources of their church, for which there is a compensation mechanism that, they recognize, is based on estimates and not on real data by not There is a faithful and reliable record of all this activity.

Not being at mass and recording

In addition to the Vatican channel, there are many churches that broadcast their Eucharists online. And there are also several parish priests who have profiles on social networks such as Instagram.

The Episcopal Conference views these initiatives favorably (“the mission of the Church can be carried out in this digital universe”) and hardly sets any rules, beyond always behaving as Christians (“be kind, positive, polite”), both in the virtual world as in the real one. Of course, when broadcasting masses over the Internet, it only sets two conditions: that the priest is not giving the homily and, at the same time, worrying about the technical issues of the broadcast; and that this is done live but is neither recorded nor can it be viewed later.

They also recommend “being attentive” to the fact that there are people watching the Eucharist through a screen.