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The meeting took place in the headquarters of the two Vatican departments in via della Conciliazione. It was aimed at facilitating a dialogue between bloggers and Church representatives so as to share experiences of those actively engaged in this field and reach a better understanding of what demands emerge for such a group.
There was much variety among participants through diversity of language, geography and type of blog represented (institutional, private, multi/single-authored). In addition to the 150 involved, a further 750 bloggers and social network users were also present, all of whom were currently connected with them directly through the web.
Some current initiatives of the Church regarding the new types of media were presented, with special mention given to the involvement of young people who have shown an interest in the Madrid GMG through the internet. The first part of the programme was devoted to taking a closer look at a number of more burning issues that have come out among the participants. Some bloggers, from a variety of language groups, aired specific topics that impacted across the board. In the second part of the programme some Church representatives with special responsibility for policy on communications spoke of their experience of working in the new media and of moves being made to establish an effective link between the Church and the blogging community.
At the heart of the contributions and the thinking of the participants was how to wed Church communication, with its hierarchical structure, with the spontaneity and free-lance involvement of blog and social network. Both Facebook and Twitter were given great airing throughout the discussions.
Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Mons. Claudio Celli, President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, and Father Federico Lombardi, head of the Vatican Press also took part in the meeting.
Celli stated: ‘ We are dealing here with a technology which shows clearly once again that our central concern is not technology itself, but that of man. We must then ensure yet again that it’s all about men and women communicating with each other; at the same time, as we look to the future, we must promote human values so as to be able to live, appreciate and use these new technologies which can, if used wisely, serve to enrich and deepen our experience of human relations.’
The exchange of views between bloggers and Church representatives has shown that the internet calls for a new type of pastoral presence and for some recognised ‘web pastor’. François Jeanne-Beylot declared: ‘If Christ were to come and preach to us today, he would not climb a mountain or get into a boat: he would go to Twitter or open a blog’.
Those who took part left with the hope that these beginnings of dialogue will be followed up further initiatives.