New Pope in a digital world…

The new Pope will be dealing with a digitally savvy congregation…

At Pope Benedict’s announcement only a handful of the 100,000 plus visitors to the vatican had a mobile device with them…look at the throng of visitors photographed yesterday.

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iPhone Confession App!

I read an article by Sandra Zummo and it made me queasy, she writes. “Even after all this time, these seven little words still have the power to make me break out in a cold sweat: “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.” “
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It has been many years since my last confession too, but the memory of the weekly trip to the penalty box las a child still ingers.

No meat on Fridays? No problem. Fasting for 12 hours before receiving Holy Communion? Piece of cake…anyone can do these.

But entering a darkened booth, perching on a kneeler and shaking until the door slides open and the priest’s face appears in shadow, waiting for me to spill my guts? Terrifying.

I just hear about the newly released “Confessions: A Roman Catholic App” at IHOP talking about whether we would skip Mass tomorrow.

I knew the Church had come a long way since my days memorizing the “Act of Contrition” as a 7-year-old, but I didn’t think it had gotten to the point of allowing sinners to bypass the confessional.

Further investigation revealed that it hasn’t. For $1.99, the “Confessions iPhone App” only helps you prepare for the Rite of Penance. As a Vatican spokesman has made very clear, “Penance cannot be replaced by a computer application.” Although that may be just a hop, skip and a jump away.

From the sound of it, the App does pretty much everything but give you absolution. Once you enter basic information about yourself, you either can create customized categories or be guided through an “examination of conscience” based solely on the Ten Commandments.

Tap on a particular commandment and you’ll be prompted to answer questions around a range of issues connected with it. Once you’ve got your sins in order, you’re ready to proceed to confession mode, where, armed with your checklist of offenses, the App provides the words to the “Sign of the Cross” and leads you into the familiar, “Bless me, Father …” Test run complete, you’re ready to head to church. Heck at that point why not just Tweet the sins?!

The penance in my youth for my “garden variety” sins generally was a very do-able three “Our Fathers” and three “Hail Mary’s.”

Every once in a while, I’d try to change things up by adding a new sin, usually something like, “I was late for Mass,” which might add three “Glory Be’s” to my penance. I clearly remember the time I also confessed to having “impure thoughts”! I was truly afraid to confess that one.

To me, a sinner is someone who takes something he or she has no right to take. Murderers are sinners. Thieves on the order of Bernie Madoff are sinners. Parents who abuse their children are sinners. Pedophiles and the people who protect them are sinners. Not sure to this day a simple act of contrition truly erases those sins…only God knows what is in their hearts.

It has been many years since my last confession. The last time was to a 90 year old Italian priest in Tokyo…that pretty well may have been the last time I will go…it took over an hour and he told me perhaps we should discuss the confession over an espresso…you can guess what those discretions may have been.

But I do think the creators of “Confessions: A Roman Catholic App” are on to something. If the Vatican is looking to draw more lapsed Catholics back into the fold, it might consider developing a confession App of its own that could somehow measure whether a penitent was truly sincere and then confer absolution.

Pope Says, “Go Forth and Blog.”

You know the old marketing adage: Go where your customers are.
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Pope Benedict XVI has apparently taken this to heart. In anticipation of the church’s 44th World Communications Day on May 16th, he has issued a statement, The Priest and Pastoral Ministry in a Digital World: New Media at the Service of the Word. In it, he urges priests to use social media for outreach in conjunction with their traditional means of communication.

The Pope feels that it’s urgent and necessary to be online, where so many people spend their time — especially young people, a key target demographic for the Church.

Priests stand at the threshold of a new era: As new technologies create deeper forms of relationship across greater distances, they are called to respond pastorally by putting the media ever more effectively at the service of the Word.

“The spread of multimedia communications and its rich ‘menu of options’ might make us think it sufficient simply to be present on the Web, or to see it only as a space to be filled. Yet priests can rightly be expected to be present in the world of digital communications as faithful witnesses to the Gospel, exercising their proper role as leaders of communities which increasingly express themselves with the different “voices” provided by the digital marketplace.”

“Priests are thus challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources (images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites) which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelization and catechesis.”
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The Pope obviously knows his social media.

His comments dovetail with the Vatican’s effort in recent years to establish a larger online presence. The Holy See created a YouTube channel last year, offering video and audio clips of Pope Benedict’s addresses, along with news about the pontiff. The recently launched Pope2you portal offers an iPhone app, a Facebook app, Papal videos, and a link to the YouTube channel.

The Vatican was on the bleeding edge when it created its own website 14 years ago, with access to the Vatican Museums and Vatican Secret Archives; there’s even a section in Latinfor classical language buffs.

The Catholic News Service, which is affiliated with the Vatican, is no technical slouch either — it has its own Facebook page, featuring news stories, notes, and blogs, with over 3,000 fans.

As CEO of the Catholic Church, the Pope knows the importance of guidelines. He’s clear to his followers about how he wants them to use social media and the message he wants them to communicate:

“The increased availability of the new technologies demands greater responsibility… Using new communication technologies, priests can introduce people to the life of the Church and help our contemporaries to discover the face of Christ. They will best achieve this aim if they learn, from the time of their formation, how to use these technologies in a competent and appropriate way, shaped by sound theological insights and reflecting a strong priestly spirituality grounded in constant dialogue with the Lord… In this way the Word can traverse the many crossroads created by the intersection of all the different “highways” that form “cyberspace”.

Regardless of your religious convictions, it’s hard to deny how impressive it is that the 82-year-old leader ‘gets’ social media. It will interesting to see how many priests follow his lead.
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Pope Benedict’s call to action is valuable advice for businesses, too. If he thinks that Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and blogging are good ways to spread his message, maybe these tools can help your company. If your firm’s leaders don’t see the value in developing a social media strategy, you can point to His Holiness’s commitment to the social Web as a branding and communication tool.

Angels and Demons

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If you’ve read Angels & Demons, an earlier best-seller by Dan-The Da Vinci Code-Brown, you’re ahead of me in choosing sides on whether the book and upcoming film, both works of fiction, are anti-Catholic.

I am Catholic and usually I am too curious to worry about those issues but some of our colleagues are taking offense.

Defender-of-the-faith William Donohue of the Catholic League calls the book and film “demonic.” In a new round of debunking books (there were dozens when Code was hot) Donohue is selling a $5 guide to its flaws. And he whacked the film (which is not in theaters until May 15) in a Daily News opinion piece Friday.

The piece was chiefly about the new Archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan.Donahue writes that Dolan, who is known to engage popular culture, will be challenged because…”Once again, the tag team of Dan Brown and Ron Howard have collaborated in smearing the Catholic Church with fabulously bogus tales.”

Now, director Ron Howard, who did the first blockbuster film of the Code and is about to launch A&D, fires back on Huffington Post:

“Let me be clear: neither I nor Angels & Demons are anti-Catholic. And let me be a little controversial: I believe Catholics, including most in the hierarchy of the Church, will enjoy the movie for what it is: an exciting mystery, set in the awe-inspiring beauty of Rome. After all, in Angels & Demons, Professor Robert Langdon teams up with the Catholic Church to thwart a vicious attack against the Vatican. What, exactly, is anti-Catholic about that?”

Back in 2006, when The Da Vinci Code was the rage, 28.5% of Americans said they had read the book, according to a survey of 1,721 Americans by sociologists from Baylor University. As far as I can tell, the Vatican and the Catholic Church are still standing.

It looks fascinating!