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The Vatican tempts the YouTube generation

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The Vatican this Friday will announce details of a partnership with Google to launch the Holy See's own YouTube channel.

According to The Telegraph, the channel will offer "video footage and audio of addresses by Pope Benedict XVI," the current occupant of the Papal Apartments in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace.

This won't be the Vatican's first foray onto the wild and wooley web. In 1995 the Holy See launched its own web site, which is one of the few online places where you can find a section entirely in Latin.

The Vatican's site even includes a set of six live web cams, should you feel the need to grab a quick glimpse of the Tomb of Pope John Paul II.

With more than a billion adherents, the Catholic Church has many other web presences, as well, including a Facebook page maintained by the Catholic News Service and the "Fact Driven - Faith Informed" Catholic Online site.

The planned star of the upcoming YouTube videos, Benedict XVI, has had an on-again, off-again relationship with science and technology. In 1990, when he was still known as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, he gave a speech at Rome's La Sapienza University in which he was said to have quoted philosopher Paul Feyerabend as excusing the Catholic Church's persecution of Galileo Galilei, saying that the church's "verdict against Galileo was rational and just."

Although there's some dispute about his exact words and meaning, in January 2008 Benedict XVI chose to cancel another speaking engagement at La Sapienza University after protests by some of its students and professors.

This past December, however, he had kinder words for the scientist that the church had condemned back in 1633, but had apologized to in 1992. Better late than never.

No matter. Science has moved on, and so has the church. And the technology that science has enabled is now enabling the church to express itself on the Tube.

It remains to be seen, however, whether the Vatican's YouTube channel will be as entertaining as Tillman the skateboarding bulldog, or as popular as Judson Laipply's The Evolution of Dance, which had 111,134,064 views as of Monday morning. ®

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