Washington archbishop takes to YouTube to reach lapsed Catholics

Washington, USA - To mark the beginning of Lent, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington is launching a $75,000 marketing blitz using YouTube, a blog and advertising to reach lapsed Catholics.

"We wanted people to be able to ask questions," said Susan Gibbs, spokeswoman for the 580,000-member archdiocese. "Sometimes they're not ready to walk in a church door ... or they might be embarrassed to ask a question, or they might be worried that they won't be welcome."

The campaign's slogan is "Longing for something? Maybe it's God?" Only about one-quarter of archdiocese's Catholics attend weekly Mass, Gibbs said, and the goal is to improve those figures.

For the past two years, the Washington archdiocese has used Lent to encourage Catholics to go to confession more regularly.

This year's campaign will include conventional advertising such as signs in subway cars and buses, radio and newspaper ads and a billboard, Gibbs said.

Taking to the Internet is a new approach. A clip of Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl has been posted on YouTube, the video sharing site, inviting Catholics who have "drifted away" to "think about coming back ..." The archdiocese also is launching an interactive blog staffed by several priests and laypeople.

Lent is a 40-day period of penance and fasting that begins this week with Ash Wednesday and culminates with Easter, the Christian celebration of Jesus' resurrection from the dead.