There is little question about Milan being Italy’s most forward-thinking city. The relentless pace, the carbohydrate-starved but gadget-hungry denizens make it seem, well, less Italian than a lot of other places.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however. Milan’s branch of Catholicism runs at a different pace, too.
The city has its own religious calendar, called the Ambrosian Rite (named after patron St. Ambrose), which means different rituals and different dates — including one of the latest Carnival celebrations, for example.
So it’s not too surprising that local Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi has become a YouTube star.
Once considered a front runner to succeed Pope John Paul, the 73 year old (whose name means something like cow teat) has a kind round face, bright brown eyes and a clipped, Northern accent.
He starts each of the Q&A Lent sessions by sending “A kind greeting to all Internet surfers.”
In the videos, also posted on the diocese homepage, he sits behind an antique desk with matching credenza while a blond female journalist asks questions sent in via email from around the region. More than 12,000 questions come in for the weekly session, kicked off for the first time this year especially for Lent.
The questions aren’t fluff, either: Tettamanzi gives down-to-earth answers (studied, but not scripted) to queries about the value of confirmation in the sacraments, the meaning of God in our increasingly violent world and sends out heartfelt prayers to a woman who writes in about a crisis of faith brought on by multiple sclerosis.
So far, the results — the first video was viewed 64,000 times — have piqued the interest of the Roman Curia, according to newspaper reports.
Even the comments have been remarkably respectful. One Federicomarquis writes: “A nice idea, Eminence, so anyone who wants to can hear your words in private and always. After all, God is the mysterious silence that speaks inside each of us without screaming from the rooftops as many do today…”
The efforts of the Milan diocese to keep up with the times haven’t always been appreciated — back in 2002, overworked priests here devised a do-it-yourself house-blessing kit that got them scolded by Rome. So, it’ll be interesting to see whether the Vatican (which up to a few years ago asked for credit card donations via fax) will catch up to video.