BY CINDY WOODEN
THE VATICAN has hosted its first-ever meeting between bloggers and the Church’s institutional communicators.
The meeting was a joint effort between the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.
The councils received over 750 requests from bloggers to attend the meetings. They drew the names of the 150 participants once the requests were divided according to geography, language and whether the blog was personal or institutional.
Richard Rouse, an official at the culture council, said news of the Vatican meeting already has encouraged other church officials to begin a dialogue with local bloggers.
The Vatican meeting, he said, was not designed as a how-to seminar, and it was not aimed at developing a code of conduct, but rather to acknowledge the role of blogs in modern communications and to start a dialogue between the bloggers and the Vatican.
Fr Roderick Vonhogen, a Dutch priest and author of the Katholiek Leven blog, told the meeting that blogging “allows me to be a shepherd for people who need one, not those who already have one” because they are active in a parish.
“If you write a blog post and no one comments, you feel miserable... alone and isolated,” he said. The comments let the writer and readers experience being part of a community.
But it is only when you have established interest and friend ship that you can bring someone to faith, Fr Vonhogen said.
Elizabeth Scalia, who blogs on The Anchoress, said that while the mainstream media tend to view blogs as “little more than a means of selfpromotion”, the Catholic blogs generally are real sources of “Catholic clarity”.
But bloggers can’t claim to be purveyors of clarity unless they write with charity, she said.
“Charity is one of the biggest challenges we face,” she said, because “freedom is both a gift and a source of temptation for our egos.” Mrs Scalia said that the Catholic blogosphere is host to too much “us and them” on both the conservative and liberal sides of the Church.
As Catholics, she said, “we have no business fostering enemies”.
“The Church needs us,” Mrs Scalia said. “It needs us for evangelisation. It needs us to disseminate information and often to correct information.
“The Church needs us to be where the sheep are grazing but at the same time, bloggers need the Church and its pastors to remind them that God’s mercy reaches out to all people and that Jesus wants his followers to be united,” she said.
Archbishop Claudio Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, welcomed the bloggers to the Vatican and told them the Vatican wanted to begin “a dialogue between faith and the emerging culture” that is the blogosphere.
Stuart Reid: Page 20