The Vatican is linking one of its websites to the popular social networking site Facebook as part of a drive to harness internet technology in reaching the world’s one billion Catholics.
The website, www.pope2you.net, was launched this week to allow Catholics, particularly those of the younger generation, to meet Pope Benedict XVI on Facebook by listening to his messages and viewing his pictures.
iPhone applications are also being featured on the website, ahead of World Communications Day on Sunday.
World Communications Day was established by the Roman Catholic Church in 1963. This year, it will focus on the role of new technologies in building relationships and promoting a culture of respect, dialogue and friendship.
Speaking to around 20,000 pilgrims in his general audience in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday, the pope encouraged young people to use the internet to share their faith.
"Young people in particular, I appeal to you [to] bear witness to your faith through the digital world," the pope said.
"Employ these new technologies to make the Gospel known, so that the Good News of God's infinite love for all people will resound in new ways across our increasingly technological world.”
The Facebook link follows the launch of a Vatican channel on YouTube. The Holy See set a new YouTube record when it broadcast the pope’s Easter message with subtitles in 27 languages.
In a lecture at the Allen Hall seminary in Westminster earlier in the week, the head of the Holy See's press office, Fr. Federico Lombardi SJ, encouraged communicators to meet the challenge of using the internet to engage the world positively to further the Gospel message of the church.
In a lecture to mark World Communications Day, Lombardi echoed Pope Benedict XVI's call for the Church to speak to "the digital generation."
"One of the biggest challenges facing us at present is that of interactivity, and, I would say, of 'positive interactivity' ... In recent years the internet has been for us an important tool that has made it possible for us to deliver content to countless users of all kinds," he said.
"Now, however, the reality of the situation that is emerging is one in which the great thing is not simply content distribution, but greater and greater interactivity."
On Wednesday, the pope said Christians, Muslims and Jews living in the Holy Land could find peace with faith in God.
Reflecting on his recent visit to the troubled region, he said, "In that land blessed by God, it sometimes seems impossible to break the spiral of violence, but nothing is impossible for God and for those who trust in him.
"For this reason, faith in the one God - just and merciful - is the most precious resource."