Monday, February 27, 2012

Pope will soon be on Twitter

The Pope will soon have his “own” Twitter account, which he will use to communicate with people about the Sunday Angelus prayer and his most important speeches. 

The news was announced by Mgr. Claudio Maria Celli, President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, in an interview with Vatican Radio.

An initial “Pope on Twitter” experiment started a couple of days ago, at the same time as the beginning of Lent. 

The Vatican “ministry of communications” - which created the account named @pope2you, in order to help youngsters get to know the Pope better - launched the initiative which involves sending one tweet a day, between now and Easter, with the words used by Benedict XVI in his speeches.

Last Thursday’s tweet reads: “Brothers and sisters, Lent gives us the opportunity once again to reflect on what is at the heart of Christian life: charity.” 

Since the initiative was launched, the number of @pope2you followers has already doubled.

When the Pope’s official account is created on Twitter, “it will not mean that the Pope will be pressing a button or anything like that,” the Secretary of the Pontifical Council, Mgr. Paul Tighe explained to Vatican Insider. 

“The aim is to get the content on Twitter approved directly by him.” But, he added, “We are still working on a system to make this possible.”

“What attracts us is the possibility of making the essence of a message accessible to many, in the hope that people will then go and read the full text recited by the Pope.”  

The name of the Pope’s account has not yet been decided, Mgr. Tighe explained: “We are discussing this with a number of experts and evaluating different possibilities.” 

In his interview with Vatican Radio, Mgr. Celli explained that this initiative for Lent 2012 was born out of an awareness of the great “resonance” that Twitter messages have on young people: “Tweets can be reformulated, redistributed, re-launched and disseminated.” 

A bit like the image of the mustard seed which, “Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” 

“This was our intention: to use new technologies to make the Pope’s message for Lent ring out far, permeate through the hearts of youngsters and bear fruits in their hearts. And this will be an experience that I believe is positive,” Celli said.

He also highlighted the Pope’s willingness to try out new forms of communication: “When we suggested to the Pope that he start a Vatican channel on YouTube, he accepted straight away... a Pope who at first glance appears not to be as media oriented as his predecessor, the Blessed John Paul II, and if anything is a reserved man, understood immediately and fully that communication via the new technologies has a huge resonance.”

The idea of opening a Twitter account for the Pope sprang from an agreement between the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and the Secretary of State. 

“It will help spread the messages sent out by the Pope during the Angelus and other addresses, via tweets. We will thus open a channel – so to say – for twitters to reach the Holy Father,” Celli explained.

The Pope will not just tweet on occasion of the Sunday Angelus, but also on occasion of other addresses regarding particular Countries. For example, requests for collaboration in the case of a natural disaster or during big Christians feasts such as Christmas and Easter.

 Mgr. Celli hopes that “these words will reach the heart of people who are normally far from the Vatican and may never read one of the Pope’s speeches, via tweets.”

The intensifying dialogue between the digital world and the Vatican can also be witnessed in another initiative that was christened today: the birth of a “holy alliance” between Google and the Church who are on a mission to educate the new generation of internet users in being responsible. 

Indeed, the Web giant has worked before with the Pontifical University Regina Apostolorumin Rome, on the creation of a Masters in Communication.

“If Italy is to become internet friendly and able to grab web entrepreneurship opportunities, the starting point has to be universities,  Google’s Giorgia Albertino explained. 

“And we are not excluding pontifical universities from the list of universities we collaborate with because the Church has shown an incredible understanding of the role and potential of the internet, to the extent that the Vatican even has its own channel on YouTube.”