Bloggers everywhere are mostly in the know of the more popular blogging conferences such as Blissdom, BlogHer, WordCamp, SXSW and countless others. What they may be surprised to find out is that there has been a call to a new kind of blogging conference, one that is less secular and focused more on religion and the big name to offer it is none other than the Vatican.
The conference, hosted by the Pontifical Council for Culture, drew a large amount of interest with over 750 bloggers applying to attend and over 9 million Google hits on the subject over the past five weeks. Hosted as a forum for discussion between bloggers and Church representatives, the main point of the meet was for those attending to get to know one another. Monsignor Paul Tighe, a member of the Vatican's social communications office, said the Catholic Church is beginning to realize that its traditional means of communication are no longer sufficient.
“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.
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.
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.
Archbishop Claudio Celli, president of Pontifical Council for Social Communications, welcomed the bloggers to the Vatican and told them the Vatican wanted to begin “a dialogue between faith and the emerging culture” that is the blogosphere.
Rocco Palmo, author of “Whispers in the Loggia,” told the gathering that the 150 invitees represented “many of the finest professional communicators” working for the Catholic Church, although it is rare that any of them is paid for blogging.
The meeting, he said, is recognition of “our contribution to the life of the church.”
One of the discussion topics at the meeting was the fact that blogging already is changing because, in many countries, Twitter's 140-character messages are becoming a more popular form of communication.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said he had to thank bloggers for the times they acted to explain and spread church teaching and the thought of Pope Benedict.
Father Lombardi said the Vatican press office releases information and documents to all accredited journalists at the same time. His work to improve collaboration with the communications offices of bishops' conferences and dioceses to ensure news gets out quickly and accurately is something he feels will help better how information gets out.
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