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“I join all those marching for life from afar, and pray that political leaders will protect the unborn and promote a culture of life.”
With this tweet, his 27th since the launch of his account, Pope Benedict XVI makes full use of what Twitter is for. Although his other tweets are undoubtedly worthwhile and eloquent, this is the first time that he makes a direct comment on something as it happens. In this case it is the March for Life taking place in Washington DC right now: tens of thousands of people are marching for the protection of unborn children, and they so as a dignified, optimistic and powerful witness for the sanctity of all human life.
May this powerful witness, which goes against the stream of modern secular thought, serve as an example for those countries, my own included, where the killing of the unborn has become largely accepted as a standard medical procedure. May the prayers in the United States also strengthen our own, that conversion of hearts may lead to the protection of all children, rich or poor, here or elsewhere, born or unborn.
Below an impression of part of the large number of people in Washington:
The Holy See today released Pope Benedict’s Message for the 47th World Communications Day, which deals with the topic of social networks, This is in itself a natural progression from the topics of previous messages, which the Holy Father all devoted to what he called the “digital continent”, the Internet, which is an area to be evangelised, just like any physical part of the world.
As ever, the Communications Day Message is eagerly expected by many Catholics who are active in social media, and I am no exception. The message is not long (only some 1,600 words), so my Dutch translation is already up on the Translations page.
Pope Benedict sees the social networks, such as Twitter and Facebook as “a new “agora”, an open public square in which people share ideas, information and opinions, and in which new relationships and forms of community can come into being.” This potent mixture can lead to true communication, friendship, communion, but that requires authenticity, because we don’t just share ideas and information, “but ultimately our very selves”.
This shows us that the pope takes social networks very seriously. It’s not just something on the side, to be used when we need it for work or entertainment: “The digital environment is not a parallel or purely virtual world, but is part of the daily experience of many people, especially the young.”
The Holy Father calls us to be authentic Christians on the social networks, to be who we are. “It is natural for those who have faith to desire to share it, respectfully and tactfully, with those they meet in the digital forum.” This indicates how we should express ourselves online:
“At times the gentle voice of reason can be overwhelmed by the din of excessive information and it fails to attract attention which is given instead to those who express themselves in a more persuasive manner. The social media thus need the commitment of all who are conscious of the value of dialogue, reasoned debate and logical argumentation; of people who strive to cultivate forms of discourse and expression which appeal to the noblest aspirations of those engaged in the communication process. Dialogue and debate can also flourish and grow when we converse with and take seriously people whose ideas are different from our own. “Given the reality of cultural diversity, people need not only to accept the existence of the culture of others, but also to aspire to be enriched by it and to offer to it whatever they possess that is good, true and beautiful” (Address at the Meeting with the World of Culture, Bélem, Lisbon, 12 May 2010).”
A final important point in the message is that social networks can also help those faithful who are, for some reason or other, rather isolated: “social networks can reinforce their sense of real unity with the worldwide community of believers. The networks facilitate the sharing of spiritual and liturgical resources, helping people to pray with a greater sense of closeness to those who share the same faith.”
An interesting film which reveals the spirituality behind the duties of altar servers., which are not just some tasks which need doing. Like so many elements of our Catholic life, it is based in a well-developed spirituality, and in turn, feeds that spirituality on a very personal level.
This is one of the beautiful things about our faith: holiness is achievable by simply doing it. Physical actions, like the speaker in the film says, can help us achieve an inner disposition on the road to personal holiness.
We live in an age where people appreciate spirituality, the transcending elements that we can strive for. Often, this appreciation is manifested in the popularity of self-help books, paranormal events and elements of the eastern religions. Our own Catholic faith also has spirituality on offer, a spirituality which is mature, deep and continuously challenging, but which is attainable for all of us if we would just devote some time and effort to it.
HT to Fr. Dwight Longenecker.
January 8, 2013 in social media, World Church | Tags: catholic church, catholic identity, creed, ecumenism, faith, hans kronenburg, icann, internet, jesus christ, protestantism, reformed church, saudi arabia | 2 comments
An article on RD.nl by Reformed minister Dr. Hans Kronenburg (pictured) challenges the efforts by the Catholic Church to register the domain name extension .catholic. He identifies it as “nothing but a conscious or subconscious digital coup”. From a Protestant point of view he is absolutely right, but from a Catholic one he couldn’t be more wrong.
The .catholic extension, if granted by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the regulatory body responsible for these things, would be allowed to be used only by institutions, groups, individuals and societies which are in good standing with the Catholic Church. Basically, the Church will have the final say if any group or person may use the extension. This would, of course, offer some control over the Catholic ‘brand’. It offers some surety that a website using the extension .catholic is, in fact, that. There are, after all, some responsibilities that come with calling yourself ‘Catholic’.
What are the problems that Dr. Kronenburg has with what he calls a coup or power grab by the Church? The core of the problem is as follows, in his own words, translated by me:
“It is the same old song again: a church which forms just one branch of the one holy catholic and apostolic church, namely the Roman Catholic, appropriates something that belongs to the church of Christ as a whole, as it is confessed in the Creed of Nicea-Constantinople (381).”
He also shares and agrees with three points of the complaint lodged with ICANN by Saudi Arabia (of all nations). 1) The church claims the name Catholic, while other churches do likewise, 2) Ecumenically speaking, it is not done to give one church control over the name ‘catholic’ when it is not authorised to do so by other churches, and 3) there are questions about the ‘catholicity’ of the Catholic Church, since she alone considers herself fully Catholic. That is not universal, but sectarian. According to Dr. Kronenburg.
Generally, it is easy to agree with at least the first point above. There is a problem when multiple churches, rightly or wrongly, claim to be catholic. In their own understanding, if not that of the Catholic Church, they are catholic.
Points two and three are, frankly, nonsensical. Ecumenism, as mentioned in point two, is about finding common ground and a growth towards unity in the one Church of Christ. It is pertinently not about changing identities, which is what happens if one church is told by another what she can or can not call herself. Point three is very much related to the understanding of the term ‘Catholic’, and that is the very core of the problem, as I mentioned above.
Catholic is a term that indicates the universality of the Church, in both time and space. Jesus Christ established His Church, which is composed of all the faithful and which has a clear structure. Here is where the Catholic and Protestant understanding depart: The unity and universality of the Church is made visible in the form she takes here and now. Christ established a Church composed of faithful, certainly, but also gave them shepherds and means to exercise authority. Over time, but fairly soon, that has coalesced into the hierarchy and the teaching authority of the Catholic Church. In various ways, the Protestant church communities, but also the Orthodox Churches, which have remained close to us in other ways, have departed from this structure. The Protestant church communities are Catholic in that they share our faith in many ways. There are also basic differences, to the detriment of their claim of ‘catholicity’. The Catholic Church is truly Catholic in that she has not only kept the faith in Christ, but also the unity, both invisibly and very visibly, that Christ prayed for.
Dr. Kronenburg’s claim that the Catholic Church is just one branch of the one Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church that we confess in the Creed is therefore not true. If she was a branch, she would have been at most a variation on one basic trunk: the faith that Christ gave us. There would be only negligible differences with the other branches. The problem is that these differences are not negligible. Dr. Kronenburg’s own Reformed Church, for example, does not constitute a different branch, but a different trunk of the same tree altogether. The faith of the different churches and church communities may share similarities, but they are by no means equal. To claim that is to neglect the major differences in teaching, understanding and faith that still exist.
And besides all this, there is the logic of domain name extensions. A Protestant website using the extension .catholic would be rather confusing. Even an Orthodox website ending in .catholic, which would have a better claim to the name, would cause confusion.
Photo credit: RD, Anton Dommerholt
January 5, 2013 in Catholic Church in Belgium, Catholic Church in the Netherlands, From Rome, reflections, social media, World Church | Tags: abortion, abuse, adrianus cardinal simonis, apostolic exarchate of france, archbishop emil paul tscherrig, archbishop frans daneels, archbishop georg gänswein, archbishop gerhard müller, archbishop henryk nowacki, archdiocese of cologne, baptism, basilica of st. nicholas, belgium, bishop alfons demming, bishop aloys jousten, bishop borys gudziak, bishop charles scicluna, bishop dominik schwaderlapp, bishop engelbert siebler, bishop everard de jong, bishop everardus baaij, bishop florian wörner, bishop frans wiertz, bishop gerard de korte, bishop hans ludvig martensen, bishop jan liesen, bishop joachim reinelt, bishop joachim wanke, bishop joannes gijsen, bishop joseph willigers, bishop michel hrynchyshyn, bishop paul wehrle, bishop rudolf voderholzer, bishop werner guballa, bishop wilhelm schraml, bishop wilhelmus demarteau, bishops, blog, brother hugo, carlo cardinal martini, carnival mass, commission of the bishops' conference of the european community, communion, congregation for the doctrine of the faith, consistory, conversion, coptic church, cormac cardinal murphy-o'connor, cuba, curia, deetman commission, diocese of 's hertogenbosch, diocese of augsburg, diocese of breda, diocese of copenhagen, diocese of dresden-meißen, diocese of gronigen-leeuwarden, diocese of haarlem-amsterdam, diocese of liège, diocese of mainz, diocese of pinsk, diocese of regensburg, diocese of rotterdam, easter, ecumenism, edward cardinal egan, elections, equestrian order of the holy sepulchre of jerusalem, eucharist, eugênio cardinal de araújo sales, eusébio cardinal scheid, family, father johan te velde, father timothy radcliffe, fortunato cardinal baldelli, francis cardinal arinze, gaudencio cardinal rosales, gender, germany, henri cardinal schwery, homosexuality, ignace cardinal daoud, intima ecclesiae natura, james cardinal stafford, josé tomás cardinal sánchez, joseph cardinal zen ze-kiun, lebanon, liturgy, luis cardinal aponte martínez, malta, mexico, miloslav cardinal vlk, missal, modernism, morocco, new evangelisation, ordination, our lady of the garden enclosed, papal visit, paul cardinal shan kuo-hsi, péter cardinal erdö, pedro cardinal rubiano sáenz, pilgrimage, politics, pope benedict xvi, pope shenouda iii, prayer, prefecture of the papal household, priests, rainer cardinal woelki, religious freedom, religious life, renato cardinal martino, rodolfo cardinal quezada toruño, rolduc, san callisto, slovakia, st. joseph cathedral, synod of bishops, timothy cardinal dolan, towards healing and renewal, translation, tv, twitter, vaticanum ii, venerable louis tijssen, william cardinal levada, wim cardinal eijk, year of faith, zenit | Leave a comment
It’s been quite the year for the Church in the world, in the Netherlands and here on the blog. In this post, I want to look back briefly on what has transpired. What happened before will, in many cases, have its effect on what will happen in the coming year.
The variety of events has been great, but if we had to characterise 2012, we can of course list the major stories: the two consistories for the creation of new cardinals, the ongoing abuse crisis and the efforts in the Netherlands and Rome to deal with it, the Synod of Bishops, the start of the Year of Faith, the retirements, appointments and deaths, the local stories in my neck of the woods and the (mis)representation of the Church in the wider world. These can all characterise the year for the Catholic Church. But since there are as many interpretations as there are readers, I’ll limit myself to presenting the major stories on my blog per month.
For this blog, it has been a good year. With 87,017 views it has been the best year yet, and I am happy to note that I have been able to provide stories, opinions and translations that have been picked up well by other bloggers and media. The pope’s letter to the German bishops on the new translation of the Roman missal, for which I was able to create an English working translation; the Dutch translation of the Christmas address to the Curia; a German interview with Archbishop Müller and my list of surviving Vatican II Council Fathers are examples of this. Both local and international media picked these up, resulting in increased interest for my blog. For that, thank you.
But now, let’s once more go over 2012 and look back on what happened in that year:
- Pope Benedict announces a consistory. The list of 22 new cardinals includes the archbishop of Utrecht.
- CDF releases a note with recommendations for the Year of Faith.
- Archbishop Tscherrig (pictured) leaves Scandinavia for Argentina.
- Cardinal Zen Ze-Kiun turns 80.
- In the abuse crisis, soon-to-be Cardinal Eijk speaks before a parliamentary commission.
- Bishop Jan Liesen is installed as bishop of Breda (Installation homily here).
- Dutch-born South-African Bishop Everardus Baaij passes away.
- Cardinal Levada opens a major symposium on sexual abuse in Rome.
- At the same symposium, Msgr. Charles Scicluna tells it like it is.
- The bishops of Belgium reply to a modernist movement among priests and laity.
- Cardinal-designate Eijk is interviewed by Zenit.
- Cardinal-designate Dolan delivers a landmark address about the new evangelisation.
- 22 new cardinals are created in the consistory of 18 February (new Cardinal Eijk pictured).
- Responsibilities within the Dutch bishops’ conference are reshuffled.
- In Germany, Bishop Reinelt retires.
- Dominik Schwaderlapp is appointed as auxiliary bishop of Cologne.
- In Mainz, Bishop Guballa passes away after a long sickbed.
- Cardinal Eijk returns home with a pastoral letter on the Eucharist.
- Cardinal Eijk announces that he will be keeping a closer eye on the celebration of the liturgy.
- Cardinal Quezada Toruño turns 80.
- Cardinal Sánchez passes away.
- Cardinal Simonis speaks to Zenit about the Second Vatican Council.
- Copenhagen’s Bishop emeritus Martensen passes away.
- The Dutch bishops respond to a new horrible chapter in the abuse crisis.
- Coptic Pope Shenouda II (pictured) passes away.
- The Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam makes public all the cases concerning sexual abuse by clergy.
- A new presidency for the COMECE.
- The Dutch bishops issue a letter concerning the celebration of the Easter Triduum, and the need to return its focus to the Eucharist.
- Pope Benedict visits Mexico and Cuba.
- Bishop Schwaderlapp is consecrated.
- Cardinal Egan turns 80.
- In the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden, the vicar general announces he will enter a monastery.
- In a letter to parliament, The Dutch bishops outline four developments in the fight against sexual abuse.
- Pope Benedict directly addresses groups of disobedient priests and laity.
- Cardinal Daoud passes away.
- Cardinal Eijk reveals a monument for victims of sexual abuse in the Church.
- Cardinal Aponte Martínez (pictured) passes away.
- A parliamentary committee hears the ‘contact group’ for victims of sexual abuse.
- The Dutch chapter of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem invests new members in the cathedral of Groningen-Leeuwarden.
- Pope Benedict writes a letter to the German bishops and enters the debate about the new German translation of the Roman Missal.
- After 66 years, the Belorussian Diocese of Pinsk finally gets a new bishop.
- A new page on the blog, about my conversion story.
- The annual pilgrimage to Our Lady of the Garden Enclosed takes place.
- Cardinal Vlk turns 80.
- Cardinal Eijk takes possession if his title church.
- The Deetman Commission undertakes a new abuse investigation, this time into the abuse suffered by women.
- Berlin’s Cardinal Woelki is misunderstood about homosexuality.
- The cathedral of St. Joseph receives a new altar (Bishop de Korte anointing it pictured) and marks the 125th anniversary of its consecration.
- Pope Benedict XVI visits Milan.
- New priests.
- Cardinal Quezada Toruño passes away.
- Florian Wörner is appointed as auxiliary bishop of Augsburg.
- The bishops of Roermond publish a brochure about Communion.
– The Dutch bishops follow suit with a letter about the same topic.
- Cardinal Schwery turns 80.
- The Instrumentum laboris of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelisation is published.
- The logo for the Year of Faith is revealed (pictured).
- A round of personnel changes in the Curia.
- Dutch Father Louis Tijssen is declared venerable.
- Archbishop Nowacki is appointed as the new nuncio to Scandinavia.
- The Heel abuse affair breaks.
- President-Delegates are appointed for the Synod.
- Archbishop Müller (pictured) is appointed as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
- About half of the world’s bishops’ conferences have formulated guidelines against sexual abuse.
- Cardinal de Araújo Sales passes away.
- Bishop Borys Gudziak is appointed as Apostolic Exarch of France.
- Cardinal Stafford turns 80.
- Bishop Wörner is consecrated, while Bishops Wehrle and Siebler retire.
- The Diocese of Rotterdam publishes a Prayer for Faith.
- Cardinal Rosales turns 80.
- Cardinal Shan Kuo-Hsi passes away.
- Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor turns 80.
- A Dutch priest’s apparent refusal to baptise the child of a lesbian couple fails to escalate much.
- Cardinal Martini (pictured) passes away.
- Cardinal Martini’s last interview causes some debate.
- Bishop de Korte marks the 25th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.
- Rumours surface that priests in the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden are unhappy with their new appointments.
- Elections in the Netherlands result in a loss for the Christian parties.
- Cardinal Rubiano Sáenz turns 80.
- Pope Benedict (pictured) visits Lebanon.
- Misunderstandings about ecumenism in the Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch.
- Pope Benedict XVI appoints 36 Synod Fathers.
- Cardinal Baldelli passes away.
- Questions arise about the German ‘Church tax’.
- The first progress report on how the Church deals with abuse claims is released.
- German Bishops Wanke and Schraml retire.
- Dutch missionary Bishop Joseph Willigers passes away.
- Morocco does not take kindly to the arrival of a Dutch ‘abortion boat’.
- Vatican Promotor of Justice Charles Scicluna is recalled to Malta to become auxiliary bishop.
- The Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelisation begins (pictured).
- Cardinal Erdö outlines eleven points for the new evangelisation of Europe.
- Belgian Curial Bishop Frans Daneels is made an archbishop.
- The Year of Faith begins.
- Pope Benedict announces a small consistory for November.
- The Synod of Bishops closes.
- An attempt at stopping liturgical abusive carnival Masses in Eindhoven.
- Amsterdam’s St. Nicholas church is to be made a basilica.
- Cardinal Arinze turns 80.
- Bishop Demming passes away.
- New sexual abuse accusations surface in Iceland against Bishop Gijsen.
- Liège’s Bishop Jousten retires.
- At Rolduc, Dutch seminarians attend a conference on new evangelisation.
- Bishop Michael Hrynchyshyn passes away.
- Hermit Brother Hugo makes his perpetual vows (pictured).
- The student chaplaincy in Tilburg is brought back into the Catholic fold.
- European intolerance towards religion on display in Slovakia.
- Cardinal Martino turns 80.
- Pope Benedict XVI creates six new cardinals.
- Dominican Fr. Timothy Radcliffe speaks about the ‘official Church’.
- Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer is appointed as bishop of Regensburg.
- Dutch missionary Bishop Wilhelmus Demarteau passes away.
- Dutch government announces pulling the plug on small religious broadcasters.
- Georg Gänswein is appointed as Prefect of the Papal Household and will be made an archbishop.
- Cardinal Scheid turns 80.
- Pope Benedict enters the Twitterverse (pictured).
- Pope Benedict publishes the Apostolic Letter on charity, Intima Ecclesiae natura.
- Dutch media totally misrepresent the pope on the family and gender.
That was 2012. Now let’s get 2013 started. Happy new year!
A week after his first foray onto Twitter, Pope Benedict XVI sent out two more tweets today. This time around they are not answers to questions posed by his followers, but reminders related to our faith life.
In today’s first tweet, he said,
“Everyone’s life of faith has times of light, but also times of darkness. If you want to walk in the light, let the word of God be your guide.”
Being a person of faith is no guarantee for an easy life. There will still be difficult times, but faith gives us a road sign back to the light. This is the word of God, which can be our guide as we live our lives as Christians.
The second tweet is about the other side of the coin: not the difficult times, but the joy that naturally flows out of a relationship with the Lord. This joy transcends mere feelings of happiness, as we see in the Blessed Virgin: it transforms her entire life and being.
“Mary is filled with joy on learning that she is to be the mother of Jesus, God’s Son made man. True joy comes from union with God.”
EDIT: In addition to the languages he tweets in now, Pope Benedict XVI will also start using Latin and Chinese for his tweets.
And there we go. Earlier then scheduled, but immediately following the general audience, Pope Benedict XVI sent out the inaugural tweet from his own account:
“Dear friends, I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart.”
And with well over 5,000 retweets in the first seven minutes, it is bound to have broken some records. Catholic Herald editor Luke Coppen wondered beforehand if US President Barack Obama’s record of most retweets would be broken. His 7 November tweet following his re-election was retweeted more than 400,000 times within hours. Whether the papal tweet will exceed that number, we won’t know for a few hours yet.
Twitter Vice-President Claire Diaz-Ortiz, who was present in the Paul VI Hall, said that the pope’s combined Twitter accounts exceeded 1,000,000 followers as Benedict sent his tweet.
It is said that Pope Benedict will answer several questions on the topic of faith, which were addressed to him using the #askpontifex hashtag, over the course of today.
For now, as we wait what the rest of the day will bring, let’s enjoy the Holy Father’s kind words and thank him for reaching out to us in this way.
Photo credit: Screenshot from the Vatican video player, courtesy of Catholic News Service
In some thirteen hours, Pope Benedict XVI will send his first tweet. As has been announced, he will do so at the end of the weekly general audience, so that would place it at around Roman noon. What that first tweet will be is anyone’s guess, although we do know it will be an answer to a question asked via the #askpontifex hashtag on Twitter.
It remains to be seen whether the seven combined papal Twitter accounts will break the 1,000,000-followers barrier, as was hoped over the past week. The count now stands at some 940,000, with the vast majority (630,000) following the English account. The other accounts, by number of followers, are in Spanish (148,000), Italian (90,000), Portuguese (24,000), German (18,000), French (16,000), Polish (9,200) and Arabic (6,700).
December 7, 2012 in social media | Tags: archbishop ludwig schick, archbishop terrence prendergast, bishop anthony fisher, bishop robert morlino, congregation for the doctrine of the faith, facebook, instagram, language, pope benedict xvi, science, twitter, vatican observatory | 2 comments
Following the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI on Twitter, various prelates and curial bodies have followed suit. While it is a welcome development from a communication standpoint, we will have to see if all these new users will prove able to achieve and maintain their momentum. Twitter, after all, becomes useful only with regular use.
For now, let’s highlight some of the new Catholic users of the short-message service. It’s not a complete list, for I am sure I missed some, but at least they are interesting enough to follow and encourage in their use of Twitter.
In the United States, the great bishop of Madison, Robert Morlino, has tweeted three times and shows a healthy openness to listening to his followers: “I’m not on here (facebook or twitter) every day, but feel free to ask questions and I’ll answer what I can,” he tweeted today.
Australia’s Bishop Anthony Fisher joined on the same day as the Holy Father, saying, “I’ve decided to take the plunge into twitter and instagram. If the Holy Father can do it, so can I!” With 31 tweets, Bishop Fisher seems to rather take to Twitter.
The first German bishop has also arrived on Twitter. He is Archbishop Ludwig Schick of Bamberg. He obviously tweets in German. His first tweet today was, translated: “Hello. I have decided to start Twittering and I wish for many followers. For now a good weekend and a good second Sunday of Advent.”
The Vatican Observatory also joined two days ago, perhaps putting to bed the silly notion that the Church doesn’t do science.
Edited to remove the link to the assumed Twitter account of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which has since proven to be a parody account.
December 3, 2012 in From Rome, social media | Tags: blogging, communication, evangelisation, faith, greg burke, jesus christ, language, letter to the ephesians, pope benedict xvi, pope pius xi, pope pius xii, radio, tv, twitter, world communications day | Leave a comment
Today, Pope Benedict XVI officially entered what he has previously called “the digital continent”, with the launch of @Pontifex, the official Twitter account of the Holy Father.
This unique step has been in the making for quite some time now. The pope used Twitter once before, although he made use of the Vatican news account. His own personal account is a unique development, one which is comparable to the first papal radio broadcast (Pius XI) and television appearance (Pius XII).
There are several separate Twitter accounts for the pope’s use, one for each of the following languages: English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, Italian, French and Arabic. It is striking that the English account seems to be the prime account, one of the few times that another language trumps Italian for official Vatican communications.
The pope will first make use of his account on 12 December, when he will answer a selection of questions on faith posted by users using the #AskPontifex hashtag. As is typical of Twitter, anyone can ask his or her questions, although there is of course no guarantee that the Holy Father will answer your question.
As for the pope following anyone on Twitter, that’s not going to happen for now. The pope will not be posting his Tweets himself, although they will all be approved by him. As the Holy See’s new media advisor, Greg Burke said, “no one’s going to be putting tweets into the Pope’s mouth”.
Within 90 minutes of its launch, the papal account has already crossed the 20,000-follower mark. Let’s take that as a warm welcome for our Holy Father as he enters the Twitterverse.
As an explanation to the launch of the papal account, the Holy See press office released the following statement:
The Pope’s presence on Twitter is a concrete expression of his conviction that the Church must be present in the digital arena. This initiative is best understood in the context of his reflections on the importance of the cultural space that has been brought into being by the new technologies. In his Message for World Communications Day 2009, which was published on the same day as the Vatican’s Youtube channel was opened, Pope Benedict spoke of the necessity of evangelizing the ‘digital continent’ and he invited young believers, in particular, to introduce into the culture of this new environment of communications and information technology the values on which you have built your lives.
In 2010, he invited priests to see the possibility of sharing the Word of God through their engagement with new media: the new media offer ever new and far-reaching pastoral possibilities, encouraging them to embody the universality of the Church’s mission, to build a vast and real fellowship, and to testify in today’s world to the new life which comes from hearing the Gospel of Jesus, the eternal Son who came among us for our salvation. In his Message for 2011, he specified that: The web is contributing to the development of new and more complex intellectual and spiritual horizons, new forms of shared awareness. In this field too we are called to proclaim our faith that Christ is God, the Saviour of humanity and of history, the one in whom all things find their fulfilment (cf. Eph 1:10). In this year’s Message, the Holy Father was even more precise: Attention should be paid to the various types of websites, applications and social networks which can help people today to find time for reflection and authentic questioning, as well as making space for silence and occasions for prayer, meditation or sharing of the word of God. In concise phrases, often no longer than a verse from the Bible, profound thoughts can be communicated, as long as those taking part in the conversation do not neglect to cultivate their own inner lives.
The Pope’s presence on Twitter can be seen as the ‘tip of the iceberg’ that is the Church’s presence in the world of new media. The Church is already richly present in this environment – there exist a whole range of initiatives from the official websites of various institutions and communities to the personal sites, blogs and micro-blogs of public church figures and of individual believers. The Pope’s presence in Twitter is ultimately an endorsement of the efforts of these ‘early adapters’ to ensure that the Good News of Jesus Christ and the teaching of his Church is permeating the forum of exchange and dialogue that is being created by social media. His presence is intended to be an encouragement to all Church institutions and people of faith to be attentive to develop an appropriate profile for themselves and their convictions in the ‘digital continent’. The Pope’s tweets will be available to believers and non-believers to share, discuss and to encourage dialogue. It is hoped that the Pope’s short messages, and the fuller messages that they seek to encapsulate, will give rise to questions for people from different countries, languages and cultures. These questions can in turn be engaged by local Church leaders and believers who will be best positioned to address the questions and, more importantly, to be close to those who question. Amid the complexity and diversity of the world of communications, however, many people find themselves confronted with the ultimate questions of human existence: Who am I? What can I know? What ought I to do? What may I hope? It is important to affirm those who ask these questions, and to open up the possibility of a profound dialogue (Communications Day Message, 2012).
Part of the challenge for the Church in the area of new media is to establish a networked or capillary presence that can effectively engage the debates, discussions and dialogues that are facilitated by social media and that invite direct, personal and timely responses of a type that are not so easily achieved by centralized institutions. Moreover, such a networked or capillary structure reflects the truth of the Church as a community of communities which is alive both universally and locally. The Pope’s presence in Twitter will represent his voice as a voice of unity and leadership for the Church but it will also be a powerful invitation to all believers to express their ‘voices’, to engage their ‘followers’ and ‘friends’ and to share with them the hope of the Gospel that speaks of God’s unconditional love for all men and women.
In addition to the direct engagement with the questions, debates and discussions of people that is facilitated by new media, the Church recognizes the importance of new media as an environment that allows to teach the truth that the Lord has passed to His Church, to listen to others, to learn about their cares and concerns, to understand who they are and for what they are searching. When messages and information are plentiful, silence becomes essential if we are to distinguish what is important from what is insignificant or secondary. Deeper reflection helps us to discover the links between events that at first sight seem unconnected, to make evaluations, to analyze messages; this makes it possible to share thoughtful and relevant opinions, giving rise to an authentic body of shared knowledge (Message, 2012). It is for this reason that it has been decided to launch the Pope’s Twitter channel with a formal question and answer format. This launch is also an indication of the importance that the Church gives to listening and is a warranty of its ongoing attentiveness to the conversations, commentaries and trends that express so spontaneously and insistently the preoccupations and hopes of people.