VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - You won't get an email saying Pope Benedict added you as a friend and you can't "poke" him or write on his wall, but the Vatican is still keen to use the networking site Facebook to woo young people back to church.
A new Vatican website, www.pope2you.net, has gone live, offering an application called "The pope meets you on Facebook," and another allowing the faithful to see the Pope's speeches and messages on their iPhones or iPods.
The Vatican's World Communications Day this Sunday is devoted to communicating the gospel with new technologies.
"We recognize that a church that does not communicate ceases to be a church," said Monsignor Paul Tighe, secretary of the Vatican's Social Communications department.
"Many young people today are not turning to traditional media like newspapers and magazines any more for information and entertainment.
"They are looking to a different media culture, and this is our effort to ensure that the Church is present in that communications culture."
Users of the new site can select from more than a dozen "virtual postcards" with pictures of the pope and messages from him on faith, love and life specifically aimed at young people, and send them to other users.
The Catholic Church, which has seen vocations to religious life decline and church attendance fall, has already turned to the Internet.
Last January the pope became one of the oldest people to have his own YouTube channel, www.youtube.com/vaticanit.
The pope, known to write most of his speeches by hand, while his aides manage his forays into cyberspace, has even admitted that the Vatican does not use the Internet enough.
The Vatican got egg on its face in January when the pope admitted that, if the Church had surfed the web more, it might have known that a traditionalist bishop whose excommunication was lifted had for years been a Holocaust denier.
The new applications are currently available in Italian, English, Spanish, French and Dutch.