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Pope tells priests - get to grips with blogs, web vids

Stained glass not a digital medium, apparently

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The Pope has ordered his priests to get more active on the net to spread the word of God, while warning them not to get carried away by the false idols of the digital world.

In a message highlighting that 2010 is the Year for Priests (Catholics only) and flagging up May's 44th World Communications Day, Pope Benedict reminds his priests that "Church communities have always used the modern media".

This sounds bit of a stretch. The Church did very well using mosaics, stained glass, frescos, illuminated gospels and scary sculptures over doorways for a long time.

But there was a little unpleasantness during the reformation on the issue of translations of the bible, and it wasn't until the last century that the Church accepted that people might want to hear the mass in their own language, rather than Latin.

Still, that's all in the past and Benedict has warned priests that simply sticking up a website with mass times and a plea for jumble sale volunteers wasn't enough.

"The spread of multimedia communications and its rich 'menu of options' might make us think it sufficient simply to be present on the Web, or to see it only as a space to be filled," he wrote.

"Priests are thus challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources (images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites) which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelization and catechesis."

Which illustrates one of the potential problems for the Vatican on the web. Apart from being impenetrable to most Catholics, never mind non-believers, just typing words like evangelization and catechesis is going to seriously eat into your Twitter character allowance.

Still, Benedict reminds us that "priests present in the world of digital communications should be less notable for their media savvy than for their priestly heart, their closeness to Christ. This will not only enliven their pastoral outreach, but also will give a 'soul' to the fabric of communications that makes up the 'Web'."

And most importantly, from the Pope's point of view, "priests must always bear in mind that the ultimate fruitfulness of their ministry comes from Christ himself, encountered and listened to in prayer".

Which as the world awaits the launch of the iSlate serves as a timely warning against being carried away by false messiahs. ®

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