By Catarina Demony
LISBON (Reuters) - Priests should get online if they want to connect with people who may no longer attend church but can still be reached via social media, the Vatican's digital expert said on Tuesday.gi
Monsignor Paul Tighe, who helped develop Pope Francis' online presence, urged Catholic clergy across the world to embrace social media to reach believers and non-believers.
"Young people are, unfortunately, less present in our churches," Tighe, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture, told Reuters on Tuesday at a technology conference in Lisbon.
"Social media is a mechanism that allows us to engage in conversations, to engage with people who otherwise would never come across us and who we are."
Pope Francis has nearly 18 million Twitter followers and his posts are widely shared, but not all church leaders are following his example, Tighe said.
"In the beginning, some Catholics said social media was nasty and that we should stay out of it," he said.
"We have been trying to convince them that the digital arena is a hugely significant part of people's lives.
"We had to learn to listen to younger people who live in that (digital) environment, and to understand from them what they find helpful and supportive."
It was the Irish bishop's second year at the annual Web Summit - Europe's biggest technology conference, which this year brought together 70,000 entrepreneurs and guests including U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
(Reporting by Catarina Demony; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Robin Pomeroy)