Thursday, May 5, 2011

Give Us This Day Our Daily Blog

The Vatican may be many things, but a public diplomacy power house it is not (see my previous comments on the subject here and here).

Just over a year ago, when the Vatican stepped forward to address not a new manifestation of the Catholic church's sexual abuse scandal but the pop contributions of the Beatles, I made this observation: "The Church needs decisive action and rapid responses. Otherwise its message will be shaped, distorted and dispersed by a sea of snarky bloggers before it can even begin, and the Vatican will find itself writing the words to a sermon that no one will hear."

Evidently, someone up there is listening.

The Vatican this week invited those snarky bloggers into the fold by hosting its first ever blogging summit. According to USA Today, this is part of a larger digital outreach effort: "The Vatican has taken several steps to promote and use Web tools in recent years, attempting to clear up miscommunication on false rumors like 'Pope okays condoms' and using the outlets to spread Catholic teaching and news."

Summit organizers underestimated the interest, and were only able to host 150 of the estimated 750 bloggers who expressed an interest in attending. So is the Vatican embracing Faith 2.0? Will the Holy See acknowledge the importance of rapid communication by establishing a cyber-campaign? While the blogging campaign represents a nod to the importance of modern communication technology, it seems to be just that--a nod. The article stresses that the Vatican has no plans to coordinate Catholic bloggers or start a blog of its own.

On the other hand, summit speakers did reflect an awareness of some of the Church's PD weaknesses. Fr. Antonio Spadaro began the panel by saying "the Church needs to listen" to the blogosphere. So it looks like a mixed bag at the moment. I'm curious to see how this plays out, and will definitely be checking in to see how it develops.

Check out blogger feedback on Twitter (hashtag #vbm11).

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