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Pope blesses Twitter, Facebook to spread Church teachings

Pope Benedict XIV urges Catholics to go forth on social networks and multiply the church's messages of faith.

The pope endorses online social networking as a means for spreading the message of faith.
Screenshot by Steven Musil/CNET

The pope has friended the online social networks in a big way.

Pope Benedict XIV, who only recently joined Twitter himself, is calling on his followers to use social-networking sites such as Facebook, Tumblr, and Pinterest to spread their faith to nonbelievers.

"The challenge facing social networks is how to be truly inclusive: thus they will benefit from the full participation of believers who desire to share the message of Jesus and the values of human dignity which his teaching promotes," the pontiff said in a message delivered on the 47th World Communications Day. "Believers are increasingly aware that, unless the Good News is made known also in the digital world, it may be absent in the experience of many people for whom this existential space is important."

In an address titled "Social Networks: portals of truth and faith; new spaces for evangelization," the pope said online social networking was creating a public forum that fosters discussion and debate that "can reinforce the bonds of unity between individuals and effectively promote the harmony of the human family."

However, the pope cautioned that the "culture of social networks" posed a challenge to those who want to discuss "truth and values," warning that the din of celebrities and marketing threatened to drown out the message.

At times the gentle voice of reason can be overwhelmed by the din of excessive information and it fails to attract attention which is given instead to those who express themselves in a more persuasive manner. The social media thus need the commitment of all who are conscious of the value of dialogue, reasoned debate, and logical argumentation; of people who strive to cultivate forms of discourse and expression which appeal to the noblest aspirations of those engaged in the communication process.

The pope joined Twitter on December 3 and quickly had a following of more 187,000 people the first day -- more than a week before his first scheduled tweet. About a month and half later, he counts 1.4 million followers, well behind the 33 million following Justin Bieber, perhaps one of the celebrities the pontiff was speaking about.

(Via Venture Beat)