George Pell’s communication challenge

Cardinal Pell in Rome

In the very near future we may see such a radical reshaping of how we view the Vatican and it will come via the most unlikely of social media champions, Cardinal George Pell, writes Richard Umbers in The Conversation.

Imagine you were playing with your phone while you waited for the World Cup final to get underway and you suddenly saw a photo of the Pope Emeritus eating popcorn with the current Pontiff on your timeline. Below the photo is a tagline wishing both countries well and a quote from St John Paul II.

In the very near future we may see such a radical reshaping of how we view the Vatican and it will come via the most unlikely of social media champions, Cardinal George Pell, current Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy in the Holy See.

Cognisant that the wireless no longer refers to a radio set, last Wednesday the Cardinal, a former Archbishop of Sydney and Melbourne, broadcast a social media thrust for the Vatican by way of a YouTube-streamed interview.

You won’t find the tweetless @CardinalPell trolling @RichardDawkins or sending you an invitation to play CandyCrush on Facebook. Cardinal Pell is, however, a strong backer of initiative and spreading the Gospel message among youth. For that reason he is more than happy to encourage new media despite his own lack of personal interest.

We have seen similar bold moves from Cardinal Pell in the past. During the 2008 World Youth Day, as Archbishop of Sydney, he launched a major social networking initiative - Christ in the Third Millennium (XT3) – which was touted as the Catholic Facebook.

As with Bebo and MySpace, XT3 had to face facts and adapt to a niche environment. In its own case, it developed into an online library of Catholic resources, which would piggyback on the major platforms of Twitter, Youtube and Facebook to get the message out.

Though based in Sydney, it has a global reach with 60,000 mainly Catholic university student subscribers aged between 18 and 35, a quarter of whom come from the United States: Australian content still exercises a Crocodile Dundee fascination for the Americans.

Working more directly with Cardinal Pell on the reform of Vatican news services is the former chair of the BBC Trust, Chris Patten. He will head the newly formed committee, which is expected to table a report some time next year. Conservative Catholics will not welcome the appointment of a trustee of The Tablet, described by Damian Thompson of The Spectator as a 'magazine for geriatric Catholic lefties'.

FULL STORY Can the Vatican go viral? George Pell’s communication challenge (The Conversation)

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