March 13, 2011

Vatican To Launch John Paul II Facebook Page

The Vatican will roll out a new Facebook page this week to promote the upcoming May 1st beatification of Pope John Paul II, the Associated Press reported on Saturday.

Among other things, the new site will link to video highlights of the late pontiff's 27-year papacy, and may well continue beyond May given the widespread interest in Pope John Paul II, the AP quoted Vatican officials as saying.

Indeed, the Vatican's first event-themed Facebook page, which was dedicated to Pope Benedict XVI's September trip to the Britain, remains active today, and is regularly updated for its 10,000-15,000 fans.

"What we found is that Facebook doesn't just share information, it creates community," said Monsignor Paul Tighe, the No. 2 in the Vatican's social communications office, in an interview with the AP.

"People begin talking to each other and sharing ideas."

That interactive nature of social media, along with the potential to evangelize the church's mission, is one of the central reasons behind the Vatican's new social media initiative. 

The Vatican also plans to launch a new Vatican information Web portal on Easter, which will include content specifically designed to be posted on social media sites and blogs.

The new portal will aggregate news from the Vatican's numerous information sources, such as Vatican Radio, Vatican Television, the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, the Holy See's press office and Fides, the Vatican's missionary news agency, Tighe said.

The current Vatican Web site, http://www.vatican.va, will remain active with basic information about the Holy See, key Vatican documents and offices, and papal activities.

However, the new portal, which will launch initially in English and Italian, will be more news-based, and will consolidate the Web presence of today's disparate Vatican media.

Its thematic design will be multimedia focused and designed for social media use, so people can tweet, post and blog its contents to their own friends and fans, Tighe explained.

"For us it will be a beginning of drawing on the riches of what we have, of our existing communications apparatus, and integrating that to ensure that its formally working with new media."

Although the Vatican's communications and public relations shortcomings in the past are fairly well known, along with its lack of Internet savvy, the Holy See has improved its communications by launching a dedicated YouTube channel, Twitter accounts and by increasing its Facebook presence.

Pope Benedict XVI has recently spoken out about how the church's message can get out effectively and in new ways through the use of social media.

"A lot of our communications in the past was: I have a message. I broadcast it. TV takes it, radio takes it, newspaper takes it, and people passively receive it," Tighe said.

"With the Internet you have this possibility of getting people's comments, getting their responses, and also of hearing their questions."

Pope Benedict himself will begin harnessing this interactivity on April 22, Good Friday, when he responds to questions submitted online by his followers.   His prerecorded responses will air on Italian state television, and will likely be available thereafter on YouTube.

"This is a beginning, in a simple way, of allowing the pope to interact with the questions of people and allowing people a direct form of access to the pope," Tighe said.

"With time we'll see how different initiatives can develop, but the commitment there is to interactivity, to engagement."


On the Net: