Toronto, Canada (PressExposure) July 13, 2011 -- By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The Vatican is leaping into the world of new media with the introduction this week of a news information portal that Pope Benedict XVI himself may put online with a click.
Vatican officials said on Saturday that Pope Benedict had been following the development of the portal, which will for the first time aggregate information from the Vatican's various print, online, radio and television media in a one-stop shop for news about the Holy See.
It is the latest effort by the Vatican to bring its evangelizing message to an Internet-using audience and follows its ventures into Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The portal is also a significant step for the 84-year-old pope, who has been bedeviled by communications problems during much of his six-year papacy, many of them the fault of a large Vatican bureaucracy that does not always communicate well internally.
Mishaps include the pope's 2005 speech about Islam and violence, his recent comments about condoms and H.I.V. that required no fewer than three official Vatican clarifications, and his rehabilitation of a Holocaust-denying bishop, among others.
The portal, http://www.news.va, is to be introduced on Wednesday, the 60th anniversary of Pope Benedict's ordination as a priest and a feast day in the church.
Msgr. Claudio Maria Celli, who heads the Vatican office that developed the portal and will maintain it, said Pope Benedict may put the site online himself with a click from the Apostolic Palace.
"This is a new way of communicating," Monsignor Celli said during a preview of the site at the offices of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.
While the portal is intended mostly to provide Vatican news in an easy-to-use setting for the outside world, Monsignor Celli says he hopes it will also improve the Vatican's internal communications by letting various departments know what one another are doing and help provide a more coherent message.
"I think that we must educate the Roman Curia of what is the real meaning of communication," he said. "Little by little they will perceive that this is the real meaning to be present, to have a relevance."
Previously, popes have been very much involved in the Vatican's communications efforts: Pope John Paul II oversaw the 1995 introduction of http://www.vatican.va - the Vatican's home page. That site will remain as the Holy See's main home page and documentation warehouse. And each of the Vatican media that are represented on the news portal will retain their independent sites: Vatican Radio, the newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Vatican Television Center, the Vatican press office and information service and the Fides missionary news agency.
The portal will aggregate their main news, initially in English and Italian, then in other languages, and will be updated three times a day, Monsignor Celli said. The portal is outfitted for live-streaming of papal events, audio feeds from Vatican Radio, photographs from L'Osservatore Romano and printed texts of papal homilies, statements and speeches.
It is also equipped to be social-media friendly, with Twitter feeds and Facebook links - a result of the Vatican's recent realization that it can reach a wide new audience by interacting with the outside world rather than merely preaching from afar.
The portal contains no search functions, nor does it offer an obvious link to the Vatican's main home page, but those may come in an update, officials said.