BY ANABEL INGE
THE LEADER of the Catholic Church in Boston has launched a video podcast to inspire web-users across the world.
Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the internetsavvy head of the fourth-largest diocese in the United States, delivered his first video podcast on Christmas Eve.
The message can be played on demand at icatholic.com in English, Spanish and Portugese. The cardinal, a 62-year-old Capuchin Franciscan friar who has taken a vow of poverty, plans to regularly record downloadable video messages on the internet.
Terrence C Donilon, the cardinal's communication director, said: "The cardinal wants us to utilise the tremendous tools that we have at our disposal and to expand the reach of those tools, so that we can bring the message of the Church and the good works of the Church to the Catholic community. He clearly understands the power of the new media that is available, and he sees an opportunity for us to reach a much wider audience with these tools."
The video messages form part of a broader effort by the Archdiocese of Boston to embrace new technology as a way of spreading the Church's message. The archdiocese is overhauling its newspaper and television websites and has assigned e-mail addresses to all priests, a few of whom have resisted using computers. Last month an intranet was launched to link the cardinal with some 800 Catholic priests in Massachusetts.
After a 2002 paedophile priest scandal which spread to other US dioceses and triggered hundreds of lawsuits, the archdiocese has turned to the internet to help unify its followers and repair its damaged reputation.
Last September Cardinal O'Malley became the first cardinal in the US to launch a blog (cardinalseansblog.org). It is already considered a success by archdiocesan officials, who say they are getting positive feedback from around the world.
The Church is rapidly expanding its use of new technology in its mission to spread the faith. Cardinal Edward M Egan of New York recently launched a satellite radio show and the late Pope John Paul 1:1 started a daily text-messaging service in 2003.
New forms of communication, such as blogging and podcasting, have been widely embraced by clergy of many denominations, above all by those in small evangelical churches that focus on ministry to the young and un-churched.
Last month the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops began offering a podcasts of daily Mass readings and American cardinals are exploring ways in which to make greater use of the internet.