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Monday, January 26, 2009

Pope Broadcasts Himself

The Vatican has launched its own YouTube channel. For now, the site, which is updated daily, will feature Pope Benedict XVI as well as Vatican news items and events in short video and audio clips (in Italian, English, Spanish, and German). The channel is designed to help the Church expand Check Spellingits reach and to give the pope greater control over his Internet image and reputation, Monsignor Claudio Maria Celli, head of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Social Communications, told the Associated Press. In his welcome message to viewers, the pope said he hoped the channel would be put to "the service of the truth."
In a separate message written for the Church's World Day of Communications on Saturday, the pope addressed what he sees as both the potential and pitfalls of digital technologies. Social networking sites (like MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter) are a "gift to humanity," he said, because of their ability to foster friendship, connectedness, and understanding. "This desire for communication and friendship is rooted in our very nature as human beings and cannot be adequately understood as a response to technical innovations," he continued. "The desire for connectedness and the instinct for communication that are so obvious in contemporary culture are best understood as modern manifestations of the basic and enduring propensity of humans to reach beyond themselves and to seek communion with others. In reality, when we open ourselves to others, we are fulfilling our deepest need and becoming more fully human."
But there's always the danger that these sorts of sites could isolate us from real-life relationships and further broaden the digital divide, he added. "It would be sad if our desire to sustain and develop online friendships were to be at the cost of our availability to engage with our families, our neighbors and those we meet in the daily reality of our places of work, education and recreation," he said. "If the desire for virtual connectedness becomes obsessive, it may in fact function to isolate individuals from real social interaction while also disrupting the patterns of rest, silence and reflection that are necessary for healthy human development." —Heather Wax