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Pope aims to go viral in Mandarin

Announcement of Twitter account also reveals details of Chinese YouTube channel

  • Alessandro, Speciale, Vatican City
  • Vatican City
  • December 4, 2012
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Details have emerged about the Vatican’s own YouTube channel in Chinese, launched with very little fanfare in October.

The channel already sports over 60 videos of papal and Vatican events with commentary in Mandarin but only has nine subscribers. Each video has been viewed on average around 10 or 20 times.

The channel also offers Vatican-produced videos with a Chinese translation and commentary, similar to other Vatican YouTube channels in Italian, English, French, German and Spanish.

The details on the little publicized channel were revealed yesterday during a Vatican press conference to present the launch of Pope Benedict’s official Twitter account.

According to Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, the channel is mostly directed to the “Chinese diaspora,” since YouTube is not available in mainland China. Nevertheless, he added, it is “the sign of a presence” for Chinese Catholics.

Fr Lombardi also said that Vatican Radio – which already has Twitter accounts in several languages – is thinking of opening an account on the Chinese microblogging “equivalent” of Twitter, probably a reference to the popular Sina Weibo website. Twitter is also not accessible in mainland China.

Pope Benedict will start tweeting from his @Pontifex account on December 12. He will answer questions on faith submitted via Twitter through the hashtag #askpontifex. He will mostly tweet about the contents of his official speeches and homilies.

Besides the main English-language account, Twitter handles have been created in seven other languages (Italian, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Polish) and others could be added in the future, including Chinese.

“Pontifex” was chosen as the account name as it is the Latin word for “bridge builder,” one of the titles of the head of the Catholic Church.

The Vatican also announced yesterday that in the next few weeks they will release a smartphone app that will allow users to follow live video feeds of papal events and masses anywhere in the world, provided there is a fast internet connection.

“The Pope app” will also feature live video feeds from webcams throughout Vatican City and the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo, and links to Vatican media outlets such as the news.va portal.

“This is going to be a huge success,” said Gustavo Entrala, CEO of Spanish media firm, 101, that developed the app.

The app will be released by year’s end on the Apple Store and an Android version is in the works too.

Finally, as part of its digital revamp the Vatican aims to publish its own ebooks.

Six electronic volumes will be published on the Year of Faith, with one volume devoted to the pope’s speeches and texts and five to recount the year’s activities in each continent.

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