Continued live-blogging from the Vatican blogging meeting:
After the first panel discussion, which involved reflections from five grassroots Catholics, the second panel shifted to the question everyone is interested in: what does the Vatican think of blogging and social media? The panel charged with answering that question was moderated by Fr. Antonio Spadaro, S.J. and included five Vatican representatives. Spadaro himself consults the Pontifical Council on Social Communications, and writes a popular Italian blog on religion and technology. The other panelists are each involved with the institutional church.
Interestingly, Spadaro also explained that the Church hopes to connect with all bloggers, not just those with the most visitors. "We want to stimulate a wide dialogue with everyone," Lombardi said. "The blogging culture is very much bottom-up. So this meeting is about far more than those present today. The Church needs to dialogue not only with the those bloggers on the top, but those throughout the spectrum."
Next, the meeting featured a lengthy reflection from Fr. Federico Lombardi, the head of the Vatican press office.
Lombardi opened with some insights on Pope Benedict's reaction to social media. "He doesn't blog and he doesn't use Twitter," Lombardi explained, "but he does understand the power of new media." In the past, Lombardi reminded, the Pope has supported the use of text-messaging to communicate with the faithful, and he has been fully behind the Vatican's social media efforts.
Recognizing the value provided by bloggers, Lombardi then complimented the blogging community for their vital help in defending Church teaching. He specifically alluded to the controversy over birth control due to Pope Benedict's book-length interview, Light of the World. Lombardi thanked bloggers for offering quick clarification in this case. The secular media, to a large extent, distorted and decontextualized the Pope's view. But many online Catholics responded by loudly articulating the true views of Benedict and the Church.
Finally, what does Pope Benedict himself think of new media? "This Pope is very open-minded," Fr. Lombardi summarized, "and he's willing to use any means of social communication for the good of the Church." To that end, Lombardi mentioned that the Pope is now preparing to use satellite technology to host a live meeting with astronauts in space.
Overall, Lombardi's reflections revealed the Vatican's primary attitude toward new media: curiosity and humility. Lombardi reiterated that because the Vatican is new to this whole shift and isn't on the cutting edge of technology, the Church hopes to learn from the faithful how to harness these tools. In this way, the Body of Christ can work as one, using our strengths to overcome our weaknesses.
Don't forget that you can watch the live stream of the blogging conference at SQPN!