Pope becomes one of world's oldest YouTube stars

VATICAN CITY Fri Jan 23, 2009 1:41pm EST

Pope Benedict XVI waves as he leads an audience with Neocatechumenal Way faithful in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican January 10, 2009. REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico

Pope Benedict XVI waves as he leads an audience with Neocatechumenal Way faithful in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican January 10, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Alessia Pierdomenico

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VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict Friday became one of the oldest people to have his own YouTube channel, and he cautioned the young to use new media wisely and to avoid on-line obsession that can isolate them from real-life.

The Vatican channel, www.youtube.com/vaticanit, will broadcast short video news clips on the 81-year-old pope's activities and Vatican and Church events, with audio and text initially in English, Spanish, German and Italian.

The video news clips will be about two minutes long each day. They will be produced by the Vatican's television center and journalists and web managers of Vatican Radio.

The launch of the channel was combined with the release of the pope's message for the Church's World Day of Communications, whose theme is "New Technologies, New Relationships: Promoting a Culture of Respect, Dialogue and Friendship."

Henrique de Castro, managing director of European sales and media solutions for Google, which owns YouTube, told a news conference Google would not make any money from the venture.

"Our strategy is to get people to come to our sites," he said.

The YouTube channel will have no advertising and provide links to a number of Vatican and Catholic websites and video channels, including some run by Churches around the world.

The channel marked the Vatican's deepest plunge into new media. The Vatican's website, www.vatican.va, began in 1995.

Archbishop Claudio Celli, head of Vatican communications said the Vatican could not exclude that someday it would have its own space on Facebook, the social networking site.

In his welcome message to users of YouTube, the pope said he hoped the initiative would be put to "the service of the truth."

In his separate, written message for the Church's communications, he cautioned young people to seek quality and not quantity in their on-line relationships and not to forget human contact.

"It would be sad if our desire to sustain and develop on-line friendships were to be at the cost of our availability to engage with our families, our neighbors and those we meet in the daily reality of our places of work, education and recreation," the pope wrote.

"If the desire for virtual connectedness becomes obsessive, it may in fact function to isolate individuals from real social interaction while also disrupting the patterns of rest, silence and reflection that are necessary for healthy human development," he said.

The pope also said it would be "a tragedy for the future of humanity" if a so-called digital divide were allowed to widen to the point where it excluded disadvantaged areas of the world that are already economically and socially marginalised.

(Editing by Matthew Jones)

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