Can You Poke the Pope on Facebook?
2009 05 22

By KI MAE HEUSSNER | ABCNews

Launch of Pope2You for Facebook Timed to Vatican's World Communications Day


An image of Pope Benedict XVI is seen on a new official Vatican internet portal on May 22, 2009. REUTERS/Pontifical Council for Social Communications/Handout


You can't officially friend him or forward photos of your most recent night out, but, as of Thursday, the Vatican says you can meet the pope himself on Facebook.


This week, the Vatican launched a new Web site, www.pope2you.net, to reach a younger generation of worshippers.(Jonathan Bainbridge/Reuters)


Launched to coincide with the Vatican's World Communications Day Sunday, the pope's new Facebook application, Pope2You, lets users send "virtual postcards" with photos and messages from Pope Benedict XVI to Facebook friends. Users can also listen to the pope's speeches through the new application.

The Vatican also launched a Pope2You Web site and an application for the iPhone and iPod Touch that gives users audio and video news of the pope's travels and speeches.

In a message posted on the new Web site, the pope said the theme for this year's World Communications Day is "New Technologies, New Relationships: Promoting a Culture of Respect, Dialogue and Friendship."

"In this year's message, I am conscious of those who constitute the so-called digital generation and I would like to share with them, in particular, some ideas concerning the extraordinary potential of the new technologies, if they are used to promote human understanding and solidarity.

"These technologies are truly a gift to humanity and we must endeavor to ensure that the benefits they offer are put at the service of all human individuals and communities, especially those who are most disadvantaged and vulnerable," he said.

Pope's New Site Is Latest Addition to Universe of Faith-Based Sites

Despite the Vatican's embrace of new technologies, the pope also issued a small caution.

"It would be sad if our desire to sustain and develop online friendships were to be at the cost of our availability to engage with our families, our neighbors and those we meet in the daily reality of our places of work, education and recreation," he said. "If the desire for virtual connectedness becomes obsessive, it may, in fact, function to isolate individuals from real social interaction while also disrupting the patterns of rest, silence and reflection that are necessary for healthy human development."

Earlier this year, the pope launched his own YouTube channel.



But the pope's latest foray into Facebook is just the latest addition to an ever-expanding universe of faith-based Web sites that are changing the way people worship.

"Religion in general, but Christianity, specifically, has always embraced technology," said Michael Kress, a managing editor at Beliefnet.com, one of the largest multifaith online resources. It has always been the case "to use the latest technology to deepen your faith, to share your faith," he said.

For the past few years, sites like Beliefnet, MyJewishLearning, Muslimspace and, yes, even FaithBook, have given people opportunities to learn about new faiths, deepen their devotion and forge religious communities not limited by geography.

Now, as the Internet continues to give worshippers unprecedented power to direct their own spiritual journeys, religious leaders have joined the social-networking stampede, too, and have started to change the ways they guide their congregations.

"I think we're just beginning to see [social networking] change the world and change faith," Kress said. There's "a huge amount of individual choice and individual decision-making that wasn't there a generation or so before. That aligns perfectly with the social-media phenomenon."

GodTube Becomes Global Faith-Based Network

Now that people can follow the sermons of a pastor or rabbi half a world away, or listen to a service on a Wednesday afternoon instead of a Sunday morning, the resulting communities aren't as dependent on pastors and churches, he said.

"The individual is really in control in a way they weren't in the past , in terms of what is meaningful and authentic to them," Kress said.

Recognizing that something akin to a religious revolution may be afoot, Jason Illian relaunched the video-sharing site GodTube (once the fastest growing Web site in the country) last month as Tangle.com, a global faith-based social-networking site.

Billed as a movement and not just a Web site, the company said it already has more than 500,000 registered users and more than 2 million unique visitors each month. Illian said more than 12,000 ministries (churches and other faith-based groups) have signed on as partners, including Focus on the Family, the Fellowship for Christian Athletes and Potter's House, one of the largest churches in the country.

"At the end of the day, church isn't about a building, it's about a community," Illian, CEO of Tangle, said. "This is a platform to build a community in very meaningful ways."

From the Mega Church to the 'Giga Church'

Much like FaceBook, Tangle lets members create pages of their own and then share videos, comments, photos and other content. But it also includes a Prayer Wall, which receives hundreds of thousands of new messages a day, and a virtual, interactive Bible on which members can comment and discuss.

Ministries can also create their own pages to communicate with members and have even given the offering plate a 21st century makeover.

"The whole concept of taking the plate and passing it around is our parents' generation," Illian said.

And, most importantly, now that people can easily reach and inspire through the Internet, new technology is changing the way influence works in religious communities, he said.

"Christendom is no longer led by a handful of the biggest ministries and the best-financed. It's going to be run by people who can touch other people's hearts in creative, viral and meaningful ways," he continued. "It's a complete paradigm shift. ... It's no longer a mega church. It's now a giga church."

Next-Generation Religious Leaders Adapting to Technology

Most of the leaders in Christendom don't know it's coming and, for them, it's "going to hit like a tsunami," Illian said.

But, he added, many of the next-generation leaders understand that technology is changing how religion gets done and are adapting appropriately.

Lifechurch.tv, for example, is a "multi-site church" that unites each week through a satellite broadcast from one of its pastors. It has 12 locations (or campuses) scattered across the country, but those who don't live near a physical campus can join the Internet Campus. The high-gloss, interactive Web site offers online seminars, member-written blog posts, video podcasts and an ongoing, countdown to the next virtual sermon.

Islamictube, Naseeb.com, Muslimsocial.com Reach Out to Muslim Community

Although other faith groups may not have a networking site as comprehensive as Tangle, they are also starting to adopt the new technology.

Sites like Islamictube, naseeb.com and muslimsocial.com cater to Muslim communities but religious leaders, particularly those who work with younger generations, use Facebook and other mainstream networks to communicate.

"I think that's a good thing," said Edina Lekovic, communications director for the Muslim Public Affairs Council. "I think that particularly in our community, we experience mosques, in the worst case scenario, that have lost touch. They're trying to do the same old tired Sunday school program."

But, she said, more forward-thinking mosques are creating Facebook pages for youth groups and posting sermons and schedules online.

"In some ways it creates competition in the marketplace," she said. "These days, you don't get off the hook."

Enough Virtual Life Already?

But while religious leaders are using new technology to recruit and reach out to members, some have a few reservations.

"I'm of a couple of minds about it," said Rabbi Howard Goldsmith of New York City's Temple Emanuel. "On one hand, in terms of communicating and teaching, I think they're vital tools. On the other hand, people look to authenticity and groundedness that is often elusive in cyberspace."

For him, Facebook is a great way to find people and let them know about temple activities. He'd even try Twitter if he could fit it in between all the rituals such as weddings, funerals and baby-naming services that call for a live rabbi.

But, ultimately, he said, Facebook isn't a substitute for face-time, especially in the Jewish faith, which has such a strong tradition of gathering in person. "There's so much virtual life out there already; people are looking for something real," he said.

As for InformationAgePrayer.com, the new Web site that automates prayer, he said, "I think that prayer is about heightening our awareness about the world around us and continuing to reinforce our relationship with God. And I don't think that having a computer recite our prayers for us accomplishes either of those goals."

James Clement van Pelt, program coordinator for Yale Divinity School's Initiative in Religion, Science and Technology, said churches that embrace the technology have found considerable success. But he and connected members of the clergy believe that even as technology changes the way people express their faith, virtual churches will never replace brick-and-mortar ones.

"People are always looking for guidance," van Pelt said. "When people have questions, they look for sources of guidance. I think that's not going to change."

Image by Andy J.


Article from: Can You Poke the Pope on Facebook?





Related Articles
Pope on Facebook in attempt to woo young believers
'Saved'? Site Lets You Send E-mails Post-Rapture
Pope Launches Own YouTube Channel
Finding God on YouTube
Act Like a Christian (Lean Like a Cholo Christian version)


Latest News from our Front Page

Secret underground tunnels of ancient Mesopotamian cult revealed under Ani ruins
2014 09 01
For the first time in history, the academic world is paying attention to the spectacular underground world of Ani, a 5,000-year-old Armenian city located on the Turkish-Armenian border. Hurriyet Daily News reports that scientists, academics, and researchers have just met at a symposium in Kars titled ‘Underground Secrets of Ani’ to discuss the city’s underground world mentioned in ancient ...
A Government Vision Of The Future That Isn’t That Great
2014 09 01
Here’s a report by the UK Ministry of Defense, a document that they’re not hiding - it’s not classified. In fact, they WANT you to read it: the Global Strategic Trends 2045. For your convenience, they’ve even produced a handy video about their dire predictions: They present a warning call for how things are going to be bad in the future. ...
Bad Memories Turned to Happy Ones in Mice Brains
2014 09 01
Memories are often associated with emotions, and these feelings can change through new experiences and over time. Now, using light, scientists have been able to manipulate mice brain cells and turn the animals’ fearful memories into happy ones, according to a new study. Memories are encoded in groups of neurons that are activated together or in specific patterns, but it is ...
CIA MKULTRA: they intended to use drugs for “everything”
2014 09 01
Drugs to transform individuals…and even, by implication, society. Drug research going far beyond the usual brief descriptions of MKULTRA. The intention is there, in the record. A CIA document was included in the transcript of the 1977 US Senate Hearings on MKULTRA, the CIA’s mind-control program. The document is found in Appendix C, starting on page 166. It’s simply labeled “Draft,” dated 5 May ...
Harmful Compound Found in Many BPA-Free Bottles
2014 09 01
A chemical found in many products labeled “BPA free” may produce many of the same health problems as the original chemical, including hyperactivity and cardiac arrhythmia, according to a pair of studies presented recently at the joint meeting of the International Society of Endocrinology and the Endocrine Society in Chicago. “BPS, termed the safe alternative to BPA, may be equally as ...
More News »