Facebook, YouTube and Wikipedia advisors are briefing Vatican officials and Catholic bishops about contemporary media at a symposium exploring the possibilities and dangers of the internet for the Catholic Church.
The Vatican hopes that embracing new media will help it connect with people
The Council of the Bishops' Conferences of Europe (CEEM) has convened the conference, which includes Internet experts, bishops, a young Swiss hacker and an Interpol cyber-crime official. Of late, Pope Benedikt has been making efforts to update the Church's approach to the Internet, launching a YouTube channel earlier this year.
The cathedral of the 21st century must be built on the Internet, said CEEM President Bishop Jean-Michel di Falco in his opening address at the symposium. The Church must engage with new media, he said, or it risks cutting itself off from a major part of many people's lives.
The Catholic Church has experienced first-hand the downside of the globalized, instantaneous sharing that can take place on the Internet when it faced a wave of criticism for the Vatican's lifting of the excommunication of Holocaust-denier Richard Williamson.
According to di Falco, the Church can better communicate its mission if it takes a more active role in its portrayal through new media. "Media often reduce the Church to the pope and a few cardinals. Even more reason to give bishops, priests and lay people a space on the Internet," he said.
Editor: Susan Houlton