Pope embraces new media tools

The Vatican has launched its own YouTube channel in what is being touted as a watershed endorsement by Pope Benedict XVI of the new-media age.

The channel, Youtube.com/vaticanit, will feature short clips of papal messages produced by the Vatican’s television center and Vatican Radio. These include the 81-year-old pontiff’s recent appeal for peace in the Middle East.

The agreement between the Vatican and Google was unveiled in Vatican City. Google managing director of European sales and media solutions Henrique de Castro stressed there would be no advertising on the channel. “Our strategy is to get people to come to our sites,” he said.

Pope Benedict is the spiritual leader of roughly one-sixth of the world’s population.

“We must find new ways to spread voices and images of hope through the ever-evolving communications system that surrounds our planet,” the pope said in his welcome message on the Vatican YouTube channel, which has audio and text in English, Spanish, German and Italian.

The pope called the Internet a “gift to humanity” and praised the benefits of such social networking sites as Facebook and MySpace in forging friendships, though he cautioned that “obsessive” online social interaction could lead to isolation.

The Vatican, which has had its own website since 1995, also recently endorsed the iBreviary, an iTunes application to put daily prayers on iPods and iPhones.

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