The Vatican launched its new news website www.news.va with this tweet by Pope Benedict XVI: "Dear Friends, I just launched NEWS.VA Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ! With my prayers and blessings, Benedictus XVI" As this historic tweet was published, reactions ranged from excitement to insult, and everything in between. The release of the Vatican's news site follows the Vatican's release of its newly designed main website, www.vatican.va.
While the Vatican has been recently active in internet media and communications, by creating Facebook and YouTube pages, it was John Paul II who commissioned the faithful to "put out into the deep of the net" to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In 2002, it was Blessed John Paul, on World Communications Day, who used the theme "Internet: a New Forum for Proclaiming the Gospel," taking from Jesus' words to Peter the Apostle-Fisherman, "Duc in altum," or "put out into the deep" for a catch.
The Church approaches this new medium with realism and confidence. Like other communications media, it is a means, not an end in itself. From this galaxy of sight and sound will the face of Christ emerge and the voice of Christ be heard? I dare to summon the whole Church bravely to cross this new threshold, to put out into the deep of the Net, so that now as in the past the great engagement of the Gospel and culture may show to the world "the glory of God on the face of Christ.”
These words of commission have come to fruition in many ways. Many area priests and bishops have blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. In 2007, Bishop Lori of the Diocese of Bridgeport began a blog, but has since been under maintenance. The Diocese of Bridgeport maintains a Facebook presence under the name "Fairfield County Catholics" that is updated regularly. In Brooklyn, the Diocese launched a TV station, New Evangelization Television, or NET-TV, from the inspiration of Blessed John Paul's commission on World Communications Day.
Recently, a Facebook poll by Examiner.com requested a one word reaction to Pope Benedict's tweet, and many skeptical responses were posted. But on Twitter itself, the majority of the responses were enthusiastic. "Holy Tweet! The Pope is on Twitter!" and "Did you catch the Pope’s first tweet? And on an iPad no less!" and "My Tweet Lord!" If you'd like to follow Pope Benedict, he can be found @PopeBenedictXIV. The Pope picked up over 10,000 followers in about three days. Don't expect a "follow", though, because the Pope only follows one, and God doesn't have a Twitter account.
The fact remains, even an ancient, sacred institution like the Roman Catholic Church can make an impact on the World Wide Web and in social media, and use it to continue Her mission. And, as one tweet reports, if Pope Benedict decides to play Angry Birds, he will only use the cardinals.