Shopping cart Shopping cartLog in / Register | Pressroom
Your shopping cart is empty
Home About Us Study Programs WOF TV WOF Radio Written Word Catholicism Series News Ambassador Store Contact Donate end cap
Written Word > Articles & Commentaries > November 2010 > YouTube at the Heart of the Vatican
Current rating: 5 (1 ratings)

YouTube at the Heart of the Vatican

By Rev. Robert Barron

Two weeks ago, I was privileged to participate in the plenary meeting of the Pontifical Council for Culture. This curial department, led by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, concerns itself with the interface between the faith and the many facets of the contemporary culture. I had been asked to share some insights gleaned from the work that I do in my Word on Fire media ministry. The opening session of the meeting took place in a sumptuous room in a palazzo on the Campidoglio, the symbolic center of the city of Rome. That evening, we heard from a representative of French television and a professor of film at the Pontifical Gregorian University. 

The next morning, all of the participants gathered for Mass at the “altar of the chair” in the apsidal end of St. Peter’s basilica. Then we wandered down to the dicastery offices on the Via della Conciliazione, the great boulevard that runs from St. Peter’s down to the Tiber. There were about fifty people in the room, gathered around a horseshoe-shaped table equipped with microphones and equipment for simultaneous translation. Among the members of the committee were Cardinal Walter Kasper, the retired head of the office for ecumenism, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the retired Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Angelo Scola, the Archbishop of Venice, and Archbishop Mark Coleridge, the head of the church of Canberra in Australia. The three official languages of the meeting were English, Italian, and French, and I would venture to say that most of the participants were more or less conversant in all three tongues. In the course of the first day, we heard from Santiago Calatrava, the Spaniard who designed, among many other buildings, the Art Museum in Milwaukee, and from Ennio Morricone, the legendary composer of film scores from “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly” to “The Mission.” Maestro Morricone shared with the group some reflections on the process of composing music for “The Mission,” which is generally regarded as one of the most powerful religious films of the past fifty years.

The final slot of the day was given over to my presentation. I will admit to being more than a little nervous, speaking to such a distinguished international assembly. The first part of my talk was a reflection on what I’ve termed “the YouTube Heresies,” the four typical blocks to the proclamation of the faith that I have encountered through my internet work. These are deep confusion about 1) the meaning of the word “God,” 2) the manner of interpreting the Bible, 3) the relationship between religion and science, and finally, 4) the rapport between religion and violence. (If you want the full treatment of these, take a look on my website,

My presentation closed with a seven minute video that my team helped to assemble. The purpose of this video was to demonstrate how someone today might navigate his way from a purely secular interest to one of my videos and then through my website. Our point of departure was suggested by a letter we received from a young man who said that he had hated the Catholic Church and priests but that he had been interested in Bob Dylan. A Google-search led him to one of my videos in which I discussed the theology implicit in Dylan’s classic song “All Along the Watchtower.” This led him, in turn, to look at another of my videos and then another. Finally, he came to the website and began a detailed exploration of Catholicism. This process led him finally, through God’s grace, to an embrace of the Catholic faith. We tried to show in the video how this young man surfed his way on the Internet from a purely secular interest all the way into the heart of Catholicism.

I was very pleased that my presentation was followed by a very lively hour-long discussion. Almost every participant around the table said that he or she was surprised and impressed by the power of the Internet to communicate the faith. Several raised concerns about superficiality: how could one possibly proclaim Catholic doctrine and morality in all of their complexity and integrity in the course of a ten-minute video? I responded that Internet videos are obviously inadequate to the fullness of the Catholic faith—but that they are a start, a seed, a manner of reaching out, especially to the next generation. Archbishop Coleridge made the fascinating remark that the Internet, despite its drawbacks, represents a sort of mystical body or communion, whereby millions of people can come into contact with one another and with the faith in a non-exclusive and non-competitive way. I confirmed that a video, once posted on YouTube, is immediately available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, all over the world—an outreach for which St. Paul or Fulton Sheen would have given his right arm.

The next morning, as we gathered in the sacristy of St. Peter’s to vest for Mass, I spoke in broken Italian to Cardinal Ravasi. I was delighted to hear that he is a great advocate of the use of the new media in the propagation of the faith. Under the auspices of the dicastery for culture, he sponsors a program called “Il Cortile dei Gentili” (the courtyard of the Gentiles), which tries to establish contact with the world of secularists and non-believers. We agreed that we should collaborate in the future. I came away from this gathering with great excitement, knowing that a passion for the Internet, YouTube, and the full range of the new media can be found in the heart of the Vatican.

Posted: 11/22/2010 12:00:00 AM by Word On Fire Admin | with 1 comments
Filed under: Vatican, YouTube

Steven Poston
I think that what you are doing on YouTube is great! I am a craddle Catholic who has been on the journey home and your videos have helped me along the way. I found you in a similar way, through a secular search that lead me to the heart of this website. God Bless you Father Barron!
1/10/2011 5:38:10 PM
Report abuse

Share with your friends

Add to DeliciousAdd to DiggAdd to NewsvineAdd to RedditAdd to Yahoo MyWebAdd to FarkAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to StumbleUponAdd to Google BookmarksAdd to MySpace


Click on the title of any of Fr. Barron's Articles on the left to view the full article.  Please feel free to provide your own comments and feedback. Clicking any of the Tags below will show you a listing of articles and commentaries that relate to the word you click. Click on the RSS link to sign up to be notified of each new item that is published here. Past articles can be found in the archive.

WOF Blog RSS Feed SubscriptionSubscribe to our RSS Feed to receive new articles


2012 A Man For All Seasons A Serious Man abortion Adjustment Bureau Adolph Eichmann advent agnostic Agora Alister angels and deomons apocalypse apologetics Archdiocese of Chicago Ascension atheism Audacity of Hope baptism Barack Obama big bang theory Bin Laden Bob Dylan book Book of Job Brad Caritas in Veritate Carol Marin Catholic Universities celibacy Charles Lwanga Chicago childfree marriages children Christopher Hitchens Civilta Cattolica Coen Brothers commentariat confession conscience contraception devil District 9 dysfunctional Eckhart Tolle Einstein Elijah Emmaus encyclical encyclicals ends and means Evangelization exorcism Father Andrew Greeley Father Barron films financial Fr. Paul Murray Genesis Georgetown golf Hannah Hannah Arendt Hell heresies holocaust interviews Ireland Judge Judy judgement Julia Roberts Kenneth Clark Kierkegaard Laurie Brink Liberal Catholicism Libya lord of the world Lumen Fidei Man of Steel marriage McGrath Mother Teresa movie review muslim nazi nones Notre Dame Nuns Of Gods and Men Palm Sunday PBS Pentecost Peter Snow Pew Forum philosophy Pitt Political Corruption Pope Benedict Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI Pope Francis Pope John Paul II priest pro life prosperity gospel protestantism Purgatory Ralph Grimston Richard McBrien robert hugh benson sacraments Samuel science scientism Sears Tower September 11th sex abuse sexuality Shari’a Law Simon Cowell spiritual St. Irenaeus St. John St. Patrick St. Thomas Aquinas St. Thomas More Superman Ted Kennedy The Hunger Games The Ides of March the shack The Stoning of Soraya M. theologian Time Magazine Timothy Dolan tolerance True Grit Twilight vampires Vatican Willis Tower Woody Allen World War Z World Youth Day YouTube


WORD ON FIRE CATHOLIC MINISTRIES | 5215 Old Orchard Road Suite 410 | Skokie, IL 60077
Add to DeliciousAdd to DiggAdd to NewsvineAdd to RedditAdd to Yahoo MyWebAdd to FarkAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to StumbleUponAdd to Google BookmarksAdd to MySpace
Copyright © 2010