"Dear friends in Christ," he says softly, dressed in a black cassock and gazing into the camera. "As we entered Lent on Ash Wednesday, the church encourages us as Catholics to practice fasting. . . ."
The 71-year-old archbishop continues for two minutes and 25 seconds, citing the example of Christ fasting in the desert. He then urges his listeners to join a Bible study group, and finishes with a kindly "God bless you."
It can be viewed at www.youtube.com by entering the search term "Cardinal Rigali."
Compared with YouTube's typically manic fare (enter "ACME Catapult Appliance Tossing" to view flying refrigerators), the cardinal's message comes across as quiet and earnest.
And it has found an audience. By Friday afternoon - about 40 hours after the archdiocese posted his clip - he had 3,079 "hits," or views.
According to YouTube's own tabulation, this made his the 16th most-watched English-language clip of the day and the eighth most-linked in the category of videos and blogs.
Donna Farrell, spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said yesterday that Rigali "knew nothing of YouTube" until his staff proposed he try it.
"He said, 'Anything we can do to reach people where they are.' He has repeatedly said to us: 'We're in the business of evangelization. Let's be out there. Let's be everywhere.' "
The archdiocesan Web site, http://www.archdiocese-phl.org/, offers streaming videos and podcasts, including the cardinal's Ash Wednesday Mass and his Lenten message that appears on YouTube.
Plans call for Rigali to present one new YouTube message for each of the five remaining weeks of Lent, followed by special messages on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter.
Whether his future Lenten messages continue to attract the relatively high number of viewers of his first week remains to be seen. Nevertheless, the first three viewer comments were enthusiastic.
"I love this man," wrote username dsao623.
"What a great contribution to the use of technologies for the purposes of evangelization," wrote hjmn4566.
"I thank you for posting this great video," wrote a user who calls himself sickboy5th, who appears to be a viewer with eclectic tastes. Sickboy's own YouTube clip shows a laughing adolescent male sliding down a flight of stairs on trash-can lid and crashing into a door.
Contact staff writer David O'Reilly at 215-854-5723, or email@example.com.