Pope Asks Priests to Embrace the Web, Blogs

Call it Pope 2.0: The Vatican reaches out to priests, asking them to embrace the Internet and Web 2.0 tools such as blogging in order to reach followers around the world.

The Roman Catholic Church is looking to bring ancient scripture and the World Wide Web together, according to Pope Benedict XVI's message for the 44th World Communications Day.

In remarks published by the Holy See, the pope encouraged priests to take advantage of the rich "menu of options" multimedia communications offers for spreading the gospel. The title of this year's message, "The Priest and Pastoral Ministry in a Digital World: New Media at the Service of the Word," reflects the aim of the church to motivate priests to join the Web. This year's World Communications Day will be held May 16.

"Using new communication technologies, priests can introduce people to the life of the Church. ... Priests can rightly be expected to be present in the world of digital communications as faithful witnesses to the Gospel, exercising their proper role as leaders of communities which increasingly express themselves with the different 'voices' provided by the digital marketplace," the pope's message reads. "This will not only enliven their pastoral outreach, but also will give a 'soul' to the fabric of communications that makes up the 'Web.'"

The message goes on to explain how digital communications represent a resource for humanity and for individuals, and encourages outreach and respect for those of different backgrounds and beliefs, as well as non-believers.

"To priests in particular the new media offer ever new and far-reaching pastoral possibilities, encouraging them to embody the universality of the Church's mission, to build a vast and real fellowship," the message explains. "The development of the new technologies and the larger digital world represents a great resource for humanity as a whole and for every individual, and it can act as a stimulus to encounter and dialogue."

This is not the Catholic Church's first foray into the digital realm. In May 2009, the pope encouraged young Catholics to tap into the power of the Internet to spread the church's message and urged followers to use the Web to foster communication and solidarity. The pope also has a daily updated YouTube page, called The Vatican, which offers news coverage of the main activities of Pope Benedict XVI and of relevant Vatican events. In addition, the Vatican set up a Facebook application that allows users to send virtual postcards of the pope to their Facebook friends or follow his travels on an Apple iPhone or iPod touch.