Twittering Cardinal Ravasi now turns to blogging

With two posts in the past week, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi has become the first cardinal in the Roman Curia with a personal blog. Like the cardinal’s Twitter account, the blog is written in Italian, but it can be quite easily read by using an online translator.

In his first post, Cardinal Ravasi explains his choice to take up blogging: “I have no intention of abandoning print, but the need to reach the younger generation, composed of highly skilled navigators of the “Internet Galaxy”, the digital natives, pushes me to face, with enthusiasm and creativity , this new adventure.”

The use of the words ‘Internet galaxy’ (galassia internet) reflect the Holy Father’s description of a ‘digital continent’, which he has used on a number of occasion. The cardinal and the pope seem, at first sight, to be on the same page when it comes to the use of social media.

Of particular interest may be Cardinal Ravasi’s work in the ‘Courtyard of the Gentiles’, a series of regular meetings and encounters with non-believers. In his latest blog post, the cardinal in fact writes that he is off to Bucharest to one such meeting, and that he intends to write about his experiences in the coming days.

68-year-old Cardinal Ravasi is the President of the Pontifical Council for Culture and has worked, for one, with the Pontifical Council for Social Communications to organise last May’s first Vatican blogmeet. He is no stranger to blogging, then.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Andrew Medichini

The Vatican Blogmeet: impressions from the outside

Yesterday’s Vatican blogmeet – the second major event (from a blogger’s point of view) in as many days – seems to have been a success. I was unable to follow the live feed provided by SQPN’s Fr. Roderick, but my Twitter timeline was swamped with tweets hashtagged #vbm11 (for Vatican Blogmeet 2011).

From that flood of information (evidence, with the coverage of Sunday’s beatification and the death of Osama bin Laden that Twitter is a serious contender for providing rapid news as it happens) I gather that there have been several important elements to the whole bloggers’ meeting.

One of them is the very welcome positive attitude from Church officials towards the blogging community. Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican press chief, spoke about the importance of service over ego when blogging, but also indicated that the Vatican is listening. He himself spends some time every morning readings several blogs, to prepare for what the day may bring. He also expressed gratefulness to Catholic bloggers who sprung into action when the regular media distorts Church developments. An example is the hubbub around Pope Benedict’s perceived permittance of the use of condoms. Before the Vatican could come with clarifications, Catholic bloggers made sure to correct the media reports and explain what the Holy Father had really said.

Related to that, Thomas Peters (the American Papist) asked why blogs could not be included among the Vatican’s accredited media, so that certain selected bloggers could receive advance copies of important documents and publications, just like newspapers and other media do now. A very valid question, I would think.

The Vatican itself also seems to be moving forward in social media. An advance view of a new news site (www. news.va) triggered much positive comments. I don’t know when that is supposed to be up and running, but a new Vatican news website would be very welcome.

The results of this first blogmeet (I say ‘first’, because I get the impression that several participants would like to see this become an annual event) will become more clear over the course of the coming weeks and months. It will be interesting to see the developments on both sides; will the sense of community in the blogosphere increase in a spirit of service, and will the Vatican, through the Pontifical Councils for Culture and Social Communications make more and more effective use of this enormous resource? And how will the latter take shape? The measure of involvement of local bishops’ conferences and Church communities is still up in the air.

Fr. Roderick Vonhögen participated in the first panel and spoke of how he, as a simple parish priest from the Netherlands, reaches an audience of thousands through social media.
Rocco Palmo moderated the first panel
Father Federico Lombardi spoke about the attitudes of Catholic bloggers during the second panel: service should prevail over ego.

Photo credits: intermirifica.net

The Vatican blognic

Abp. Claudio Maria Celli, head of the Council for Social Communications, and Fr. Federico Lombardi, Vatican press chief, will attend the conference

As is common for the blogosphere, 1,001 opinions have cropped up about what I think is a very interesting initiative from the Pontifical Councils for Culture and Social Communications. On the 2nd of May, the day after the beatification of Pope John Paul II, they are hosting what Father Tim calls ‘an official blognic’. The bloggers’ conference, which is open to essentially any Catholic blogger will aim to collect their experiences and identify the needs of the blogging community. It’s another careful outreach of the Church into the digital continent.

The date of 2 May is not random. The Councils figure that many bloggers will be in Rome anyway for the beatification ceremony and won’t need to undertake an extra journey. The conference will be held in the St Pius X auditorium, which can host some 150 people, so despite the invitation being open to all Catholic bloggers, only a select view will be able to actually participate. The organisers desire to have a representation of the entire blogosphere, with various kinds of bloggers from various countries. Fr. Tim has collected more information in the blog post linked above.

In light of this event, and spawning from some thoughts I have had about it over the past months, I have added a Paypal donation button to the sidebar on the left. I don’t expect to be swamped by enough donations that I can fly over to Rome, but perhaps, if you think this blog is worth a read from your part and some time from mine, you can offer some small support. After all, also on the digital continent, time is money, and maintaining a blog with some level of seriousness can sometimes take up more time than is readily available. Any donations will be spent on this blog or related causes.