Pope Benedict XVI has galvanised Catholics at the close of 2012 to go on
the offensive over key faith issues, forging new alliances and fighting
secularism in the West with a media campaign.
Damaging sex abuse
scandals and growing opposition to the Church's attitude toward gay
marriage and women priests have forced Benedict to rethink how to
communicate with the modern world and stem the flood of deserting
The 85-year-old pope joined Twitter this month as part
of efforts to disseminate the Catholic message worldwide, which also
forced the professorial pontiff to reduce his usual reams of dense
theological reflections to 140 characters.
The Vatican in June
hired American Fox News correspondent Greg Burke to help modernise its
communications strategy and by December Benedict had sent his first
tweet which went out in eight languages to thousands of followers.
pope's tweets of faith may have sparked derision among some Twitter
users, but they brought the Vatican widespread visibility among the
digital generation, which was told that God is not dead but "knocking at
The leader of the world's one billion Roman Catholics
also took the unusual step of writing an editorial for Britain's
Financial Times newspaper, urging business and political leaders to
adhere to Christian ethics and moral codes in their daily lives.
call to take a stand against what he views as society's ills -- such as
consumerism and a wilful disregard of "traditional" family values -
was repeated in his strongly-worded Christmas message which slammed the
selfishness of modernity.
"We want ourselves. We want what we can
seize hold of, we want happiness that is within our reach. We are so
'full' of ourselves that there is no room left for God. And that means
there is no room for others either," he said.
The pope also began
in earnest to follow through with one of the key ideas of his papacy,
calling for dialogue with atheists, agnostics and others outside the
Catholic Church who are nonetheless fighting the same battles.
In a bid against gay marriage which is gaining ground in the West, he took the first steps in finding new allies.
France, Britain and the United States soon expected to join a dozen
countries where same-sex couples can legally wed, Benedict reached out
to religious and non-religious people alike who respect what he called
the "law of nature".
Weighing into the heated debate, the pope cited France's chief Rabbi Gilles Bernheim, who has spoken out against gay marriage.
has also mobilised top Catholic figures to beat the drum on the
Church's teachings on social issues, from the family to homosexuality
The Vatican's new guardian of dogma, Germany's
Gerhard Muller, Milan's Archbishop Angelo Scola, and Cardinal Gianfranco
Ravasi, the pope's culture minister who is a keen Tweeter, are among
those who have gone on the offensive.
"A small but influential
group of bishops has formed around Benedict XVI and pays a great deal of
attention to addressing the central questions of culture and society
with weighty words," Vatican expert Sandro Magister told AFP.