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Irish bishops turn to the Internet

DUBLIN, Ireland (AP) _ Ireland’s Roman Catholic bishops are embracing the Internet as the best new way to reconnect to their flock.

Cardinal Sean Brady and Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin offer streamed-video messages on a newly launched Web site, www.catholicbishops.ie, that gives viewers the chance to read, see and hear the views and activities of Ireland’s Catholic hierarchy.

“Many church people today are slow about IT. Some seem proud to say that they will never master the techniques. But they have nothing to be proud of,” Martin said in his video homily straight to camera.

“Information technology is a true gift of God to our times, mediated through the creative genius of men and women. Not to use it, to refuse to understand it, is to reject a gift of God,” said Martin, a former Vatican diplomat who today oversees more than 1.1 million Catholics in the Irish capital.

The Web site, launched as part of this week’s national conference of the 33 bishops in Ireland, marks the latest effort by the Catholic hierarchy to modernize in the face of growing secularization in Ireland.

The country remains officially more than 85 percent Catholic, but recent polls suggest that weekly Mass attendance has fallen to all-time lows below 50 percent. Two decades ago that figure stood nearer 90 percent – before a wave of sex-abuse scandals and an economic boom rapidly eroded the church’s traditional central place in Irish life.

The Web site showcases Catholic teachings on everything from marriage to the recruitment of new priests under the slogan “Altar your life.” It has an archive of church statements, and even a video archive of famous sermons, including from Pope John Paul II’s 1979 visit to Ireland.

It also highlights that some bishops are better video bloggers than others.

Martin, renowned as a smooth communicator, delivers his video comments conversationally. But Brady delivers his words stiffly and slowly with his head tilted back, apparently to see the script through his bifocals.

___

On the Net:

Brady video welcome, http://tinyurl.com/3madfa

Diocese map, http://www.catholicbishops.ie/archdioceses-and-dioceses/view-map

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.

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