VATICAN CITY—The Vatican has invited 150 Catholic bloggers to attend a first-ever blogging summit Monday, increasingly aware of the role that faith-based blogging is playing in spreading Catholicism.
The one-day meeting is a get-to-know-you event to bring bloggers together into discussion with the Holy See, according to Monsignor Paul Tighe of the Vatican's social communications office.
As befits the rapid-fire way news travels in the blogging community, the conference drew 750 requests from would-be participants from around the world. Tighe said only 150 were accepted because of space constraints, and that they were chosen by language groups and then by lottery.
At least one group of shutouts, who are very conservative or write tradition-minded blogs, have formed an alternative summit scheduled for a Rome pub Tuesday, where organizers promise pizza, beer and that "all the cool kids will be there."
The Vatican has been seeking more and more to engage with the world online: for the beatification of Pope John Paul II, the Vatican instituted a special Facebook page, Twitter account, ran clips of his 27-year pontificate on its YouTube channel and let the faithful send electronic postcards to one another via its youth-based news portal about what they were experiencing.
Tighe says it's all a realization that traditional ways of communicating are no longer sufficient for the Catholic Church, particularly for the younger generation.
The Catholic blogging community is as diverse as Roman Catholicism, with a range of views and topics: Some people blog about spirituality, others take a more political tone about the direction of the church, others share information about liturgical questions.
Tighe says the idea of bringing together a cross-section had been kicking around for some time, but that the occasion of John Paul's beatification Sunday seemed like the logical time to do it since many bloggers were going to be in Rome anyway.
"It's very much a first step, to meet with, to hear their concerns, to try to talk about some of the things we're doing and see if people want to take it further or how they think it might be helpful to take the discussion further," Tighe said in a recent interview.
He stressed that the Vatican wasn't interested in trying to organize or police the Catholic blogosphere, which has its own fair share of extremist views.
"I think we recognize that even if it were our agenda, it would be a very futile exercise," Tighe said laughing.
What may come out of the meeting Monday is a way for Catholic bloggers to organize themselves in some type of association, much like other Catholic media, he said. But he stressed that that would be an initiative from the bloggers themselves, not the Vatican.
And he tamped down suggestions that someone in the Vatican might start a Vatican blog, noting that the informality of the blogosphere might make for a confusing message given the tendency to equate any communication from the Holy See as its official position.
Vatican blogging conference: http://www.pccs.va
Vatican's youth-focused portal: http://pope2you.net
Vatican's John Paul II website: http://www.karol-wojtyla.org
Alternative blog summit: http://wwww.anglocath.blogspot.com