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 CNS Story:

OMALLEY-BLOGGING Oct-2-2006 (730 words) With photo. xxxn

Cardinal O'Malley's blog makes a splash in Boston, cyberspace

By Antonio M. Enrique
Catholic News Service

BOSTON (CNS) -- From advice on how to live a life of prayer to descriptions of casual encounters with American tourists, Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley's latest effort to communicate with his flock is making a splash both in Boston and in cyberspace.

The cardinal is documenting his most recent trip to Rome with a Web log, or blog, launched for the occasion: www.cardinalseansblog.org.

"It was suggested I use a blog to communicate with everyone but primarily with young people, to speak to them in their own media," the cardinal told The Pilot, Boston's archdiocesan newspaper, in a Sept. 26 telephone interview.

He said he was amazed to learn earlier this year how many people had followed events of the March consistory via the Internet.

"It has not been my practice to bring people to Rome, but I thought I could share some of the experiences of this trip with Boston Catholics over the Internet," he said.

The cardinal's 11-day trip to Rome featured two main events. On Sept. 23 he was the homilist and main celebrant at the anniversary Mass of St. Padre Pio. The event brought together more than 10,000 people at the Capuchin monastery at San Giovanni Rotondo in southern Italy. Cardinal O'Malley is a Capuchin Franciscan, as was the saint.

On Oct. 1, the cardinal took possession of his titular church in Rome, Santa Maria della Vittoria.

The cardinal's first blog entries are casual, reminiscent of postcards home. Entries include his personal preferences on European travel, a discussion of airplane food and a recounting of conversations with the Lufthansa flight crew on their pride at having a German pope.

While keeping its casual form -- the entries are peppered with anecdotes that frequently end with "lol," Internet shorthand for "laughing out loud" -- as the days have progressed the blog has taken a more pedagogical tone. References to the lives of the saints, church history and Roman architecture have increasingly found their way into the cardinal's posts.

In an entry posted four days into the new endeavor, Cardinal O'Malley admitted that the blog "takes a bit of time," although he called the experience "amusing."

"I feel like I'm on some reality television show on MTV ... lol," he wrote.

Though it may not quite be a reality television show, the cardinal seems to have attracted an audience to his online postings. A Google News search indicated its launch has been reported in places as far away as India and Australia. He told Catholic News Service in Rome that his blog had drawn more than 3 million hits.

As might be expected Catholic bloggers are weighing in on the initiative and the reaction has largely been positive.

In his Splendoroftruth.com blog, Jeff Miller analyzes one of the cardinal's latest posts.

"Sean Cardinal O'Malley moves beyond photo-blogging with a great post of spiritual catechesis and commentary on the saints -- especially (St.) Padre Pio. With all of the media attention (on) his blog, I was hoping he would expand it beyond just photos with travel commentary. This post does that in droves," Miller wrote.

Massachusetts blogger Domenico Bettinelli Jr. welcomed the initiative and offered the cardinal some advice: "I think for it to be effective at connecting the cardinal directly with the people without the filter of the mainstream media, he should keep blogging and use it to write about controversies that arise."

Cardinal O'Malley said he plans to continue the blog once he is back home.

In an entry posted Oct. 2, the last of his trip, he wrote: I am happy to announce to you that I will continue to communicate directly with you through my blog each week when I return to Boston. It's my hope to make a post once a week, on Friday of each week, starting this coming Friday. So, I invite you back to my blog and look forward to sharing and communicating with you well into the future."

But speaking of the media attention generated by this initiative, the cardinal stressed the importance of complementing traditional Catholic media presence such as The Pilot or Boston Catholic Television with the new media tools that are rapidly becoming mainstream for new generations of Catholics.

"This experience clearly indicates that, as a church, we need to use the Internet more," he said.

END


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