Pope Reaches Out on YouTube

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The Pope will be taking his 2000-year-old religious message onto the often controversial and irreverent YouTube, the Vatican announced Friday.

The Vatican's dedicated YouTube channel went live at midday on Friday, offering short video news clips of Pope Benedict XVI's activities and links to more in-depth information about the Catholic Church.

There will be no advertising on the channel and the Vatican has not paid Google for a platform on its popular file sharing site, Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi told a press conference presenting the new communication initiative.

"The Pope sees it as a positive step," Lombardi said. The Vatican may consider in the future whether it might be possible to carry appropriate advertising on its YouTube site, but would not be doing so immediately, the spokesman said.

"We won't be making money out of the Vatican channel. We believe it is our job to bring important information to our public," Henrique De Castro, managing director of European sales and media solutions at Google, told the press conference.

Initially the channel will carry up to three new videos a day of up to two minutes in length illustrating the Pope's activities or important events taking place in the Vatican, Lombardi said.

The site will offer a number of interactivity options: the possibility of sharing videos with friends, receiving new videos via i-google and a chance to send comments to the Vatican press office, Lombardi said, but he added he could give no guarantee that all messages would be read or receive a reply from his office.

The Vatican's YouTube page will initially operate in English, Italian, Spanish and German and will carry links to its traditional online news outlets. There will be a link to the Vatican's institutional Web site that was founded in 1995, as well as to Vatican TV, Vatican Radio and Vatican State sites, Lombardi said.

"We considered it was a positive thing to be present on Google, to be present where human beings are present," Rev. Claudio Celli, president of the pontifical council for social communications, told the press conference. "This was how the journey of Christianity began."

People had been asking him why the Pope was "lowering" himself by appearing on YouTube, Celli said. "The Pope doesn't lower himself by going on Google. It's a question of having a strategic vision. This is a first small step towards becoming a church that enters into dialogue with today's world."

Asked whether Pope Benedict XVI used the Internet himself, Celli confessed that he wasn't sure. "I presume he does. Knowing the man, my answer would be affirmative."

In a speech on new technologies released Friday, the Pope praised the Internet as offering rich opportunities for dialogue, friendship and spreading the Christian message.

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