Pope Launches Own YouTube Channel

"This is just a first step into social networking, we still have a lot to learn about how it works," he said, explaining that not all the interactive options on the channel will be available right away.

Initially, surfers will be able to send and share a video message as well as place it in the iGoogle file. But it will not be possible to download clips or post comments on the site, although comments can be sent.

The comments will be read by Lombardi and his assistants. "I must be honest. We just do not have the work force to reply to the messages for now but we are happy to receive them and will learn how to respond to them in the future."

Nearly 200,000 youths in the United States have already received the pope's message via Facebook and other social networking sites on the Internet, said Msg. Paul Tighe, secretary of the Vatican communications office. "The U.S. Bishop's conference is present on Facebook," he explained, "and thousands of young Catholics also communicate together via the social network called XT3.com."

When asked if the church was in favor of the Facebook social network , Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, who heads the Vatican's communication office said, "I am still studying the matter. We have opened a debate on the subject but we have not decided on it yet."

But a number of cardinals have posted their profiles on Facebook.

As with other institutions with channels on the YouTube site, the Vatican will not pay for the service. Henrique de Castro, a spokesman for Google, which owns YouTube, told journalists that the Vatican's debut is not a financial exchange but "a move to bring relevance to users."

The Queen of England made her debut on YouTube with her Christmas Day message in 2007 on the RoyalChannel page. U.S. President Obama started weekly YouTube addresses last November.

The pope is happy about the new channel, Lombardi said.

But on whether the pope actually uses the Internet, Celli said, "I do not have direct proof but I believe he does. Being a curious and attentive man of research, I would think so."

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