Vatican City, June 29, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) – Pope Benedict XVI launched a new Vatican News website with his first Tweet. The site officially went live on June 29. The Pope got things underway with a message posted on Twitter: “Dear Friends, I just launched Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ! With my prayers and blessings, Benedictus XVI.”

The new site brings together all the Vatican’s communication outlets into one online location for the first time ever. The list of agencies includes Fides News Agency, the newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, the Holy See’s Press Office, the Vatican Information Service, Vatican Radio and the Vatican television service, CTV. Each will also retain their own independent website.

“The new portal is giving you the possibility of having a direct, immediate approach to the most important pieces of news from the Holy See,” said the President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Archbishop Claudio Celli, in his first interview with Vatican Radio on the new website.

The new site has a multimedia format, offering live-streaming of papal events, photographs from L’Osservatore Romano, audio from Vatican Radio and video footage that will also be available on the Vatican’s YouTube channel. It also links to other social communication sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Flickr.

Initially only two languages will be on offer, Italian and English, but that could soon change. “After summer we need to have a restyling of the site and we hope to start immediately with another language – probably Spanish,” said Archbishop Celli. “But our idea is to then offer the portal in other languages, such as French or German or Portuguese.”

The initial reaction from the online Catholic community seemed to be overwhelmingly positive. Fr. Tim Finigan, the London-based creator of The Hermeneutic of Continuity blog, commented to CNA, “The Holy Father has repeatedly encouraged us to use the Internet in the service of the Church and is demonstrating publicly his support for our apostolate. Although the Vatican website itself is still in need of improvement, the website shows what can be done.”

Signs elsewhere also look positive. After only a few hours of going live, the new Vatican site already had over 3,000 “friends” on Facebook and over 36,000 people following it on Twitter.

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