The moment holds a special place in the an nals of Vatican history: On the afternoon of Feb. 12, 1931, Pope Pius XI launched Vatican Radio, declaring in an intercontinental transmission: "Listen, O heavens, to that which I say; Listen, O Earth, listen to the words which come from my mouth. ... Listen and hear, O peoples of distant lands!"
Technology has aided evangelizing efforts since Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, and in the past 30 years the Vatican has added a television station and a website. So the Vatican's launch two weeks ago of its own channel on youtube.com, a site better known for granting web immortality to entertainment clips and personal idiocies, was not groundbreaking.
"YouTube is a contemporary means of communications, and the church has used whatever means of communications are available at the time," said Monsignor Robert Wister, a church historian at Seton Hall University. "It started with apostles preaching, St. Paul writing letters, and the evangelists writing down the gospels."
Pope Benedict XVI, who turns 82 in April, has taken on a wider internet presence of late, not just through YouTube evangelization but through recent comments about the "so-called digital generation," as he describes it in his message for the Vatican's upcoming World Day of Communications.
And while that message tacitly criticizes overuse of Facebook and other social-networking sites, Benedict himself has a Facebook page, created by a supporter, on which 30,000 people have become "fans" of the pope.
The Vatican's YouTube channel, its home page adorned with a vista of the famed St. Peter's Square colonnade, contained 36 videos as of Friday, most of them snippets from Vatican television coverage of Benedict's latest speeches, translated into English.
The channel has drawn mixed reviews, and despite a stream of advance publicity worldwide it attracted just 550,000 page views in its first two weeks. About 12,500 people have subscribed to its offerings.
Its most popular entries actually pertain to Vatican communications and the internet.
The most widely seen video, with just under 100,000 views, is titled "Vatican Communications HD" and features a 95-second collage of pictures and videos of popes, often experimenting with technology, from the early 20th century to the present. It includes footage of John Paul II waving into a computer with a camera function that shows his gesture on its screen in real time, and brief footage from his funeral in April 2005.
The next most-popular entries feature speeches of Pope Benedict regarding the internet. "Benedict XVI: internet a new way to speak of God" and "Benedict XVI: internet can promote the search for truth" have been seen 75,000 and 33,000 times, respectively.
Far less popular are videos of Benedict's speeches on peace, baptisms, and relations between Catholics and the East Orthodox. They have been seen about 10,000 times apiece.
One religion commentator, the Chicago Sun-Times' Cathleen Falsani, praised the Vatican's effort but said the content thus far lacks the pizzazz needed to attract young internet users.
Dalai Lama to Twitter on Tibet
The Dalai Lama's Twitter feed -- twitter.com/ohhdl -- was launched on Saturday. OHHDL stands for the Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
"Welcome to the official Twitter page of His Holiness the Dalai Lama -- administered by The Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama," the first message read.
It was followed several hours later by another message: "Our office is currently overwhelmed by responses from our first day on Twitter. We will make every effort to answer your questions in time."
The background for the page includes a quotation from the Dalai Lama: "Each of us has responsibility for all humankind. It is time for us to think of other people as true brothers and sisters and to be concerned for their welfare, with lessening their suffering."
Twitter claims more than six million users of its service, which allows users to send short messages known as "tweets" of 140 characters or less.
NEVERMIND IT'S AN IMPOSTOR