The Vatican reached out to the digital generation today with the launch of a dedicated YouTube channel. The site will post video clips of Pope Benedict XVI's daily activities on the Web site in an effort to lure a younger audience.
The videos will include clips of papal audiences, the pope's meeting with important world leaders and ceremonies in the Vatican that television crews normally cover daily. All the clips will be available with audio and text in four languages -- English, Italian, German and Spanish. Today's debut selection is made of 12 clips from the pope's activities in the past few weeks.
The site will also provide links to the various Vatican media services that offer additional official information.
The Vatican launched the site during a crowded news conference called to present the pope's message for the church's annual World Day of Communications later this year.
Vatican communication officials noted that the message was directed primarily to the generation that has grown up in the digital age and to those who have so successfully integrated the new technologies into their daily lifestyles.
In the message, the pope embraced the digital world and the "extraordinary potential of the new technologies, if they are used to promote human understanding and solidarity," referring to it as "truly a gift for humanity."
In stressing the importance of friendship and communication, the pope emphasized that it is also important to focus on "the quality of the content that is put into circulation using these means" and called on all people to "respect the dignity and worth of the human person."
He reminded users to avoid "the sharing of words and images that are degrading of human beings, that promote hatred and intolerance, that debase the goodness and intimacy of human sexuality or that exploit the weak and vulnerable."
While extolling the virtues of the new technologies, the Pope warned of the risks that this "connectedness" can lead to and warned against the trivialization of "the concept or the experience of friendship."
"It would be sad," he wrote, "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 ..."
He warned against substituting real life for a virtual. "If the desire for virtual connectedness becomes obsessive," he said, "it may, in fact, function to isolate individuals from real social interaction."
The pope also stressed the need for new technologies to be made accessible to "those who are already economically and socially marginalized" so that they do not become even more isolated. In ending his message, he encouraged Catholic youth to evangelize and spread the word about their faith via the Internet.
At the launch of the new YouTube channel, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican news office, said, "We are convinced that there are people interested in the pope's message and that they, in their search for the meaning of life, are among the many who surf the Web."
But the official Vatican channel might also be a way for the church to counter the myriad posts attacking the church and the pope.