The Pope will have his own YouTube channel according to a report from New Media Age. This is not the first time the Church has hit web 2.0 – Facebook, Myspace and Flickr were all used in a Lent offensive last year to get people taking about how they can make the world a better place, religion aside.
Is this a wonderful way of getting non-Christians involved in topics they wouldn’t otherwise be involved in, or is it just a gimmick?
In St. Albans, a new bishop was announced on Youtube and Jesus Christ, God bless him, has his own Myspace. By using social networking sites and video sharing portals, Christianity is being made easier to access for the web savvy generation, who may not want to read religious magazines because they are perceived as being outdated.
It is slightly gimmicky, yes, but no more so than everyone else who is doing it, from Gordon Brown and Barack Obama, to Robert Llewellyn and Top Gear. Pretty much everybody is on Youtube so why shouldn’t the church have a presence?
This demonstrates that the Church is taking steps to re-align itself with a younger audience who will hopefully go to God in this time of economic struggle. It may of course backfire as a bad PR stunt, but it is a PR stunt that may also work in bringing together Youtube viewing Christian communities who can share their ideas and fully embrace web 2.0 for their religion, and they can then spread the message of God as intended.
You could also argue that they are late to the party, Al-Qaeda have of course been releasing videos via Al-Jazeera for the majority of the decade (would it be cynical to say that Al-Jazeera is their Youtube?) although I am yet to find Osama B’s Facebook profile.
The Vatican should be applauded for their use of new media to engage with their audience and finding new ways to tell their key messages. What they must not allow is for the channel to become a one off, or barely used conduit. To allow it to be used two or three times and then neglected would be a pity at such an opportune time.