VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict has told church leaders that social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter aren't a virtual world they can ignore, but rather a very real world they must engage if they want to spread the faith to the next generation.
The 85-year-old Benedict, who tweets in nine languages, used his annual message on social communications to stress the potential of social media for the Catholic church as it struggles to keep followers and attract new ones.
Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, head of the Vatican communications office, cited a 2012 study commissioned by U.S. bishops that found that 53 percent of Americans were unaware of any significant presence of the Catholic Church online.
Other studies, Celli said, show that people born after 1982 use Facebook, Twitter and YouTube far more than their parents as primary sources of information, entertainment and sharing political views and community issues.
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