The Pope broadcasts live each Christmas with the Mass from Vatican City. In 1996, Pope John Paul II sent his Christmas message throughout the world for the first time by internet. And two years later the sermons of the pope were relayed to the world using the Vatican's website. This interest in cyberspace by the Vatican was the subject of a recent desk column of the Catholic Times.
The Vatican website began in 1995, with Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German and English translations. Within two days of the inauguration of the site, it had 300 thousand visitors. When news of the pope's illness became known, the website was flooded with well wishes and prayers. The pope was a cyberspace star.
With the beginning of the papacy of Benedict 16th, despite his age, he continued this interest. In 2007, we have the Vatican joining the YouTube world; in 2007, Facebook and, last year, he sent his first tweet through the Vatican account while launching a new website. He wrote on an iPad: "Praise be our Lord Jesus Christ! With prayers and blessings, Benedictus XVI." Within 3 hours he had 15,000 followers.
The tweet that was sent last year came from the Vatican's official account. But by the end of the year, the pope will have his own Twitter account and be part of the Social Networking Services. Is this not all to get us involved in getting the message of Jesus out to as many people as possible? At present, the most popular people on Twitter happen to be Lady Gaga and other entertainers.
The desk columnist tells us that we do have many in the Church who are taking the pope's example to heart, and he praises, especially, a bishop for his initiative in the use of the internet. Many lay people, clergy and religious are using cyberspace to make it a healthier place for all. The pope is a good example to all on the need to take advantage of this new media.
That the pope is going to have his own personal account on Twitter is full of great meaning to all of us. Twitter, Facebook, My Space and Cyworld and many others are ways of meeting in cyberspace. No matter how popular you are or how big you are in society, in cyberspace you have only one vote, says the columnist. It is a one-on-one meeting. Your off-line persona does have an influence online, but the offline persona is not the same as the online persona. The columnist is curious to know what the pope's thinking is on these new systems of communication and their meaning for us and society.