message on social media and online communications today, telling Catholic Internet users to be respectful of others online and to not focus too much on their online popularity. The message was part of the church's annual World Day of Social Communications.Pope Benedict XVI delivered a
During his speech last year, Benedict had urged church leaders to embrace digital tools in order to communicate their message to laypeople. This year's message calls for those online to adopt a "Christian style presence" and to be "respectful and sensitive."
Those words were aimed in part, according to the head of the Vatican's social communications office Archbishop Claudio Celli, at some conservative Catholic blogs, YouTube channels, and websites whose behavior may not be "appropriate" and whose rhetoric may be incendiary.
- Pope Benedict XVI
Much of the Pope's message today about online communications echoed the themes from previous years: the Internet is both a benefit and a danger; social networks can build community, but virtual relationships should never replace real friendships. The Pope stressed honesty and openness, warning against creating artificial online personae.
"There exists a Christian way of communication which is honest and open, responsible and respectful of others," Benedict wrote. "To proclaim the Gospel through the new media means not only to insert expressly religious content into different media platforms, but also to witness consistently, in one's own digital profile and in the way one communicates choices, preference and judgments that are fully consistent with the Gospel."
Under Benedict, the Vatican has made significant efforts in expanding its online presence. It has a dedicated YouTube channel and a Pope2You.net portal that links to the papal iPhone and Facebook apps. For his part, however, the 83-year-old Pope admits he's not particularly Internet savvy - he writes everything longhand. And despite his urgings for "young people above all to make good use of their presence in the digital world," Archbishop Celli acknowledges that the Pope may have never been on Facebook.
He seems to be a fan nonetheless.