Catholic Community 'Likes'

Already an Internet hit, more features will follow.

(photo: Facebook)

VATICAN CITY (EWTN News/CNA) — The new Vatican website is already making a name for itself: After only a few hours of going live, the site already had more than 3,000 “friends” on Facebook and over 36,000 people following it on Twitter.

Pope Benedict issued the first tweet June 28 (see Edward Pentin’s take here, plus video). The site went live officially June 29.

The site brings together all the Vatican’s communication outlets into one online location for the first time. The list of agencies includes Fides News Agency, the newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, the Holy See’s Press Office, the Vatican Information Service, Vatican Radio and the Vatican television service, CTV. Each will also retain their own independent websites.

“The new portal is giving you the possibility of having a direct, immediate approach to the most important pieces of news from the Holy See,” said the president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Archbishop Claudio Celli, in his first interview with Vatican Radio on the new website.

The new site also has a multimedia format, offering live-streaming of papal events, photographs from L’Osservatore Romano, audio from Vatican Radio and video footage that will also be available on the Vatican’s YouTube channel. It also links to other social communication sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Flickr.

Initially only two languages will be offered, Italian and English, but that could soon change.

“After summer we need to have a restyling of the site, and we hope to start immediately with another language, probably Spanish,” said Archbishop Celli.

“But our idea is to then offer the portal in other languages, such as French or German or Portuguese.”

The initial reaction from the online Catholic community seemed to be overwhelmingly positive.

“Along with other Catholic bloggers, I have been heartened by the website, which makes news from the various agencies available easily in one place,” said Father Tim Finigan, the London-based creator of The Hermeneutic of Continuity blog.

“The Holy Father has repeatedly encouraged us to use the Internet in the service of the Church and is demonstrating publicly his support for our apostolate,” he told EWTN News.

“Although the Vatican website itself is still in need of improvement, the website shows what can be done.”