Unless you’ve just come out from under a rock, you’ve probably seen a story—no, ten stories!—about Pope Benedict’s tweet.
On June 29, the 60th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood, the Pope pushed the button on his iPad and—voila!—launched the much anticipated new Vatican website, news.va.
I was among the Catholic bloggers who, at the invitation of the Vatican, attended the May 2 Vatican Blogfest where we were treated to a preview of the multimedia site, then still under development. The crowd in the room, all media-savvy writers and consumers of technology, were impressed by the breadth of the project. Catholic news sources which were effectively linked from news.va included the Fides News Agency, the Holy See’s Press Office, the Vatican Information Service, Vatican Radio and the Vatican television service, CTV.
But there’s more! News.va features live-streaming of papal audiences and events, video footage that will also be featured on the Vatican’s YouTube channel, and links to other social communication sites such as Facebook and Twitter. I found myself muttering, “Banners and links and headlines, oh my! Photos and videos and audio, oh my!”
I was honored to be on the list to receive the Pope’s first tweet—even though I shared that distinction with 31,000 other Catholics from around the world. I was pleased to help spread the good news, “retweeting” Benedict’s message to my friends. Then, I watched the instant replay on the Vatican’s website, watched the Holy Father pause only briefly before he hit that button, and I felt as smug as though he were sending a secret message just to me.
Being Catholic is c-o-o-l!
What Pope Benedict actually said, to me and to all the world, was:
This week marks the 150th anniversary of the Vatican’s quasi-official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano. How times have changed since July 1, 1861, when the first issue hit the newsstands! LOR will also be included in its entirety on news.va, as well—making it possible for all Catholic writers—not just large media outlets with a Rome bureau—to quickly access first-hand reports of Church news.
“Dear Friends, I just launched News.va Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ! With my prayers and blessings, Benedictus XVI.”
It is a brave new world. And it is a proud moment, to see the Catholic Church step out to use the newest technology to reach both old and young, both her adherents and her detractors. Preachers and missionaries like St. Peter and St. Paul, whose feast we celebrated yesterday, and evangelists like St. Matthew and St. Luke, embraced every means available to them to transmit the gospel message, to tell the Story Which Must Be Told. We must do the same.
There is more to be done. Archbishop Claudio Celli, Prefect of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, expects to restyle the site this fall—for example, offering the portal in other languages. At its opening the site is available only in Italian and English; but there are plans to translate into other languages beginning with Spanish, the moving into French, German and Portuguese.
With the new social media, the Catholic Church can tell her story to eager followers and reticent searchers. Some who perhaps have never visited a church, who have no family or friends to share the truths of scripture, may now—with the click of a mouse—learn about Jesus’ love for them, and how he founded a church and left it here, safeguarding his message. Some may hear for the first time a new perspective on the importance of marriage, or the sanctity of life, or the ethical ramifications of scientific study.
I, for one, am grateful to the Vatican staff who invested so much thought and wisdom and prayer into building this comprehensive site. Please take a few minutes to see what’s going on over there. I think you’re going to like it!