ALEX COHEN, host:
Even though the Super Bowl is a few days away, you can already see the ads on YouTube, which is also where you will find an entire channel dedicated to the Vatican. Yes, that means it's now possible to watch the pontiff pontificate right before you watch a version of the Dark Knight trailer done entirely with Legos. Writer Cathleen Falsani has been watching the new Vatican channel, and she says it falls a little short of her favorite online pope video.
Ms. CATHLEEN FALSANI (Religion Columnist, Chicago Sun-Times): The clip is a grainy, tinny sounding recording of three Polish break dancers performing for Pope John Paul II back in 2004. They're pop locking and spinning on their heads on the Vatican's polished marble floors. John Paul II is clearly enthralled by the dancers. He's battling the effects of Parkinson's disease, but he raises his hands, smiles, and even attempts to clap to the hip-hop beat.
(Soundbite of music)
FALSANI: "Break Dancing for the Pope," as the video is called, never fails to lift my spirits, even in the darkest of times. So I greeted news that the Vatican had launched its own YouTube channel with great enthusiasm. I eagerly played each of the videos hoping to find a gem, something humanizing perhaps, and ever so slightly hip, like Pope Benedict XVI in a private audience with Jon Bon Jovi or learning how to snowboard. Alas, the Vatican's YouTube fare thus far is decidedly more oh, shall we stay, austere.
Pope BENEDICT XVI: Undoubtedly, wise use of communications technology enables communities to be formed in ways that promotes a search for the true, the good, and the beautiful, transcending geographical boundaries and ethnic divisions.
FALSANI: Each of the nearly two dozen videos on YouTube is a minute or two long. And most show Pope Benedict seated on an ornate gold throne or behind a glass lectern reading from a script. There's a clip of his annual Christmas Day Urbi et Orbi blessing in Saint Peter's Square and footage of the pontiff baptizing 13 infants in the Sistine Chapel. And then, there's the short clip of the Pope blessing a basket of live lambs.
Pope BENEDICT XVI: (Latin Spoken)
Unidentified Woman: In honor of the Feast of Saint Agnes, the Holy Father blessed the lambs whose wool will be used for palliums that are bestowed to metropolitan archbishops...
FALSANI: Already, more than 8,500 people have subscribed to the Vatican's YouTube channel. It's had about 300,000 page views so far. In Vatican City, where time elapses in centuries, not hours, this leap into the digital age is laudable. Vatican officials are hoping to connect with a generation more familiar with Web 2.0 than Vatican II. The problem is antiquated content in a new medium doesn't make the content any fresher. These staid Vatican videos are vying for young people's attention with YouTube phenoms like Spaghetti Cat, the Filipino prison inmates dancing to Michael Jackson's "Thriller," and that maddeningly memorable song, "Chocolate Rain." It's going to take more than lambs in a basket for the Pope to go viral.
(Soundbite of the Pope saying Mass)
FALSANI: If the Vatican can loosen up a bit and post video content with a little more soul - think more break dancing and less Latin chanting - its efforts to bridge the digital gap to young Catholics could be a great success. So keep an eye on your email inbox. Someday, you might get Pope roll.
(Soundbite of song "Never Gonna Give You Up")
Mr. RICK ASTLEY (Singer): (Singing) Never gonna give you up. Never gonna let you down. Never gonna run around and desert you...
COHEN: Cathleen Falsani is the religion columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and author of the new book "Sin Boldly: A Field Guide for Grace."
ALEX COHEN, host:
Day to Day is a production of NPR News, with contributions from Slate.com. I'm Alex Cohen.