For centuries Catholic missionaries have brought God’s word to even the most impenetrable regions of the planet. But as the world changes, so do places that need evangelization. The Internet with its hundreds of millions of users is what the tropical jungles of Latin America were for the Church two centuries ago.
Any two thousand-year-old institution would have problems with adapting to new conditions. Used to the comforts of their parishes, priests hardly ever strive to reach with the Gospel to other communities who may not be as willing to accept the Bible as Amazon Indians. But at the same time, the Church realizes that remaining locked in traditional frames of evangelization, it may not survive another century.
For Cardinal George Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney, the Internet is the answer. Last Thursday he presented a new networking website, www.Xt3.com, which hopes to gather Catholic users, as well as all those who look for something more than cheap entertainment and the latest sports results. Originally intended to inform people about World Youth Day, which takes place in Australia this year, the website has already been dubbed the Catholic Facebook.
Cardinal Pell admits that it may not be easy for his project to catch up with Facebook or Myspace. But being aware of obstacles, he says it is a great chance for priests to communicate with the youth of the 21st century. “Whatever my ignorance of this area, it’s more balanced by my recognition of its importance and my determination that the Church and representatives would be active in this area,” he told an Australian newspaper.
The name – Xt3.com – seems more suitable for a secret air fighter, yet there is nothing mysterious about it. “Bringing the Gospel of Xt [Christianity] into the 3rd Millennium,” is not only the motto, but also the plan that the website’s authors have set up for themselves. Less than a week since the debut, Xt3.com has attracted hundreds of young online users from around the world. Although most of them are Catholics, the website intends to become a forum where people of other denominations or even atheists could voice their concerns also.
Freedom is to be one of the website’s main advantages. People will have to adhere to certain rules, but unlike other Catholic places, Xt3.com does not intend to restrict its subscribers. “If they want to debate different issues, they’ll be able to do that. There wouldn’t be any point in stopping that from happening because if we did, they wouldn’t keep visiting the site in the future,” Bishop Anthony Fisher told the Catholic News Agency. “We want kids to feel free to talk freely.”
One of those kids is Raymond from Atlanta, GA. Like the other 16 people from his area who have joined Xt3.com, he expects the website to become a source of new friends and ideas for his faith. “I’ve made my mistakes and done some things I wish I hadn’t; but that’s all in the past,” he writes in his profile. “All I can do now is reflect on the past, learn from past and continue forward with newfound knowledge and a better understanding of this game we call life,” he adds.
The Xt3.com website is the first step to evangelize the online community. It is not hard to imagine someone from a small town in rural Oklahoma sharing her religious concerns with her friend in the sunny Sydney. If Catholic missionaries vastly succeeded in converting the impregnable Amazon Jungles, then they may turn the Internet into a more Christianity-friendly environment as well.