VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI has a new commandment for priests struggling to get their message across: Go forth and blog.
The pope, whose own presence on the Web has heavily grown in recent years, urged priests yesterday to use all multimedia tools at their disposal to preach the Gospel and engage in dialogue with people of other religions and cultures.
And just using e-mail or surfing the Web is often not enough: Priests should use cutting-edge technologies to express themselves and lead their communities, Benedict said in a Vatican message. The message, prepared for the World Day of Communications, suggests possibilities such as images, videos, animated features, blogs and Web sites.
Benedict said young priests should become familiar with new media while still in seminary, though he stressed that the use of new technologies must reflect theological and spiritual principles.
The 82-year-old pope has often been wary of new media, warning of what he has called the tendency of entertainment media to trivialize sex and promote violence. But he has praised new ways of communicating as a "gift to humanity" when used to foster friendship and understanding.
Last year the Vatican opened a YouTube channel as well as a portal dedicated to the pope. Pope2You.net gives news on the pontiff's trips and speeches and features a Facebook application that allows users to send postcards with photos of Benedict and excerpts from his messages.
"That doesn't mean that [every priest] must open a blog or a Web site. It means that the church and the faithful must engage in this ministry in a digital world," Msgr. Claudio Maria Celli, a Vatican spokesman, told reporters.
Many priests and top prelates already interact with the faithful online. One of Benedict's advisers, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, archbishop of Naples, has a Facebook profile, as does Cardinal Roger Mahony, archbishop of Los Angeles. - AP