By Bruce Johnston in Rome
THE VATICAN, concerned that the Church is not doing enough to attract the young, is urging bishops to advertise.
In a new document, signed by Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, Archbishop of Milan and a figure widely tipped to become the next Pope, the Pontifical Council for Culture is encouraging dioceses around the world to launch "proper advertising campaigns, including commercials".
The Vatican is no stranger to the powers of advertising. It recently allowed the Pope's image to be used on products such as a cola brand and corn chips, to help meet the costs of his Mexican trip, and in 1990 Italy's bishops enlisted the Saatchis to coax people to donate more money to the Church.
The new document marks the first time it will be advertising itself on any scale. Presenting the document, Cardinal Martini stressed that a distinction had to be made between the apostolate — even if the means employed was that of the media — and proselytism, which had a negative connotation.
Oliviero Toscani, the creator of the controversial Benetton advertising campaigns, welcomed the move. "The Church has been a formidable communicator for the last 2000 years," he said. "What are the frescoes in the Sistine Chapel if not advertising?
"The Church invented modern communications, through the use of images, symbols and icons, and it is only right that it should re-appropriate it."