New media test Vatican's digital fluency

Catholic News Service reports:
Pope Benedict XVI recently urged the world's priests to make better use of new media, but in his own backyard the digital revolution is still seen as a mixed blessing.

The Vatican Web site remains largely a repository of printed texts, displayed on pages designed to look like parchment. And despite more than a decade of discussion about making the site interactive, www.vatican.va continues to provide information in one direction only: from them to you.

Some Vatican agencies have embraced the digital possibilities, notably Vatican Radio, which offers online broadcasts, podcasts and RSS feeds along with photos and print versions of major stories.

Other departments prefer to fly below the radar. The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, for example, has posted exactly one new piece of information on its Web page over the last three years.

Among the few Vatican officials willing to tackle these issues head-on is Archbishop Claudio Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. He met with reporters to present the pope's World Communications Day message Jan. 23, which called for better use of new media, and said it held lessons for everyone engaged in church ministry.

"The risk is that our sites will merely be places where information is posted, and not a real meeting ground," he said.

The challenge for the church is not to encourage young priests and seminarians to use digital media, because they're already doing so, he said. The bigger problem is convincing middle-aged and older priests to embrace these possibilities.

Archbishop Celli said his council is also willing to tackle an even more sensitive issue -- in many ways, the core issue -- of Vatican communications: the question of language.

"This is a topic we need to face in an explicit manner. Many times we speak, but in a language that is no longer comprehensible," he said. He said that's something that may be the focus of an upcoming plenary session of his council.

Msgr. Paul Tighe, secretary of the communications council, launched what might be called a trial balloon on the question of language in a recent article in Cultures and Faith, a publication of the Pontifical Council for Culture.
As things stand, he said, the church relies too much on texts, which often use a vocabulary and forms of expression that are experienced as "unintelligible and off-putting even by sympathetic audiences."

He said the church needs to recognize that today's younger audience is fluent in "a language rooted in the convergence of text, sound and images," and will quickly move on if their attention is not immediately engaged.

(Read the complete report here)


  1. As you might recall, I taught a course for a diocesan catechetical event last year - on social media and faith.

    I was lukewarm about doing it again although I may take another stab at it after this announcement. My own faith is so deeply enriched by social networking and the opportunities for learning are great.

    Thanks for being a real light along this particular path!


  2. I especially related to "vocabulary...are off-putting even by sympathetic."
    I try but I don't speak Vaticanese.


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