Pipiavit @Pontifex – FOLLOW UP and POLL

The Pope sent his first tweet.


UPDATE 12/12/12 22:36 GMT:

The Pope has something around 1.5 million followers across his various language oriented accounts.  English is the leader with close to a million.  The number is going up by 10k each time I check it, it seems.

So far he has 7 tweets.

Tweets All / No replies

Offer everything you do to the Lord, ask his help in all the circumstances of daily life and remember that he is always beside you

Any suggestions on how to be more prayerful when we are so busy with the demands of work, families and the world?

We can be certain that a believer is never alone. God is the solid rock upon which we build our lives and his love is always faithful

How can faith in Jesus be lived in a world without hope?

By speaking with Jesus in prayer, listening to what he tells you in the Gospel and looking for him in those in need

How can we celebrate the Year of Faith better in our daily lives?

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.


I have been watching a little of the @pontifex feed.

Pretty strange and pretty much as I knew it would be.

The deeply twisted and the profoundly dumb are out in force.

The insults have mostly to do with perversion (homosexual acts) and scatology.

Honestly, some of these people write things that are so stupid I marvel that they even know how to breathe.

So far, I am confirmed in my opinion that it would have been better for the Holy Father’s cat to have a Twitter feed.

Time will tell what fruits this will produce.

By the way, I am unconvinced that Popes should tweet.  There, I said it.  Yes, I know about social media and the New Evangelization.  Blah blah blah….

Choose your best answer and give your reasons in the combox.  You don’t have to be registered to vote, but you do have to have an approved registration to post.

Should Popes tweet?

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I am not quite at this point, but…

UPDATE 13 Dec 1812 GMT:

In the meantime, I just caught this from a bigwig on the Pontifical Council for Social Communication:

The Twitting Bishop @raspanti speaks about the Twitting Pope @pontifex: http://ow.ly/g4RyR  (in Italian)


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Finarfin says:

    Awesome. Truly cool. I can’t read Latin, but it looks like the first tweet was not sent in it. Was it Italian?

  2. Clinton says:

    “Dear friends, it gives me joy to speak with you via Twitter. Thank you for your
    generous response. I bless you with all my heart.” — at least, that’s my translation.
    I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a frail reed to lean on when it comes to reading

    God bless our Pope.

  3. Faith says:

    I’d love to know what’s really going on in BXVI’s head. Does he get it?

  4. AvantiBev says:

    I saw this story on Yahoo from AP and was dismayed but not surprised by the vehement and vile comments left behind by those too “enlightened” to fall for our “Catholic hocus pocus”. And I am not talking about fundamentalist Protestants here; I am talking comments that would make ANY faithful Christian believe our Kristellnacht was approaching.
    And Satan truly knew what he was doing when he got so many homosexual pederasts admitted to our seminaries during the last 50 years. That is the gift that keeps on giving to all Catholic-bashers. They NEVER hold the gay community responsible for even 1/2 of what went on. Nope. It is all sponsored by the Church and, in all fairness, to the extent that certain seminaries were Lavender Palaces and certain bishops committed cover-ups, that criticism is fair. But why the gay interest in joining the priesthood is a question never mentioned.

  5. asperges says:

    Poor Pope: as if he hasn’t enough to put up with!

  6. RuralVirologist says:

    I feel this was degrading. Tweeting could be done by His Grace-to-be Archbishop Ganswein, who can also fly airoplanes. He is old, and looking older than before. One of the Church’s greatest minds, and he has to poke at a little screen in public and get applauded for it. Look what the Pope can do!! It looks like a bunch of publicity-hungry vultures herding him. A public display of his attempts to interact with a device that is (probably) not one of his comfort zones, and certainly not a display of his intellect or leadership, is degrading. I felt so sad for him watching this.

  7. StWinefride says:

    Rural Virologist – same thoughts here. When he was moving his index finger towards the screen I thought “E.T. phone home”. I bet he can’t wait till he’s called Home. Praying for you Papa Nostro.

  8. StWinefride says:

    I would like to re-phrase the above, it reads better to say “I bet he can’t wait till God calls him Home.”

  9. anna 6 says:

    Cheer up Rural Virologist! I understand your concerns, but I thought that he looked quite delighted to be around young people and happy to be able to meet them through “their” technology.

  10. anilwang says:

    I don’t know if they plan to do any moderation, but there are quite a number of pointless insults attached to the twitter feed. If they’re not going to moderate, its best to turn off replies (assuming that Twitter gives you that capability).

    I didn’t know what to think of the twittering but after reading the first twitters I think , it’ll be a good thing. I’ll bring a personal touch to the Pope and won’t be too distracting as long as he doesn’t spend more than an hour or so a week answering questions during his regular public audiences.

    I’m not sure how they’ll manage the traffic, though. Even if they get no spam and no anti-Catholic traffic, they’ll have their hands full sifting through the legitimate questions to the best question. Then again, maybe we don’t need the best questions, just a few random comments. Even pointless comments like “@Pontifex you didn’t give me a chance to suggest anything you pushy pope :( “, can be an opportunity to comment on patience, and detachment from the world…especially the electronics world.

  11. happyCatholic says:


    Yes, he does look older and frailer, but tweeting does not make him older or frailer.

    I have not read the vile comments, but when has the papacy NOT been subjected to vile comments? Martin Luther, anyone? I don’t use twitter much except on election evenings (great way to get instantaneous analysis) and at other times to see what my daughter is tweeting, who works in journalism (she lives in a different city and I know she is alive if she has tweeted ;-) I imagine other moms know what I mean).
    And, from her perspective and that of my other daughters as I mentioned when this topic was brought up before, we see this as the shepherd going to look for his lost sheep in the highways and by-ways of this fallen world. It is to the young people in cyberspace that the pope is coming. My Lutheran nephew was taking a poll on Facebook on who was following the pope on twitter; he has never mentioned the papacy before on his Facebook page, and conversations are being started. This is going to where these kids live and it brought tears to my eyes to think of how the pope’s willingness to enter this fray outside of what may be his comfort zone is an icon of how Jesus relentlessly pursues his lost sheep, as the poem “The Hound of Heaven” so poignantly illustrated. The medium is neutral, neither good nor bad. I say it is a blessing to have the Pope’s presence in cyberspace. God bless Pope Benedict!

  12. MichaelJ says:

    Every generation tries to “connect” with the younger generation by adopting the style, mannerisms, and language of that younger generation. My grandparents did it, my parents did it, and I find that I do it as well.

    Unfortunately, all of these attempts fail miserably. They come off as condesending and false.
    True communication comes about only when you drop affectation and do not try to hide who you are or the message you are trying to convey.

    Hopefully, the Holy Father will succeed where everone else has failed. Time will tell, but I am not particularly optomistic.

  13. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    “The deeply twisted and the profoundly dumb are out in force.” Great line. Sad fact. But great line.

  14. Johnno says:

    The twitter account is largely irrelevant. But no harm having it I suppose. There’s no room for it to really theologize about something, but maybe its good at times where someone is really hpoing the Pope may respond to them in some way if even just as a sentence.

    And as for the negative comments, I say keep them. It’s all good evidence documenting the level of evil that exists in this world. They yelled insults to Christ on the cross, and they’re continuing today through electronic means. Maybe we can hope a few of them get fired from their job or called out for anti-Catholic bigotry. Hey if they can do it to Christians politely standing up for marriage, then they’re fair game too!

  15. Stumbler but trying says:

    I read some of the tweets, banal and demeaning and beyond disrespectful…I felt sorry for them but I applaud the Holy Father’s courage. Sure, he could have chosen to stay within the confines of comfort, where everyone is positive and gracious and respectful. I am sure he chose the path that will bring about greater good despite what may be hurled at him. I am sure in his time alone with Christ, he will lift up those very same folks and plead for mercy. He knows exactly what he’s doing and with a gracious heart, he took a step out in faith to face the pack of wolves whom he knew were waiting just salivating for the chance to “get him.”
    As long as things do not get out of hand, may his efforts be blessed but if not, then at least one can know he tried.

  16. AnAmericanMother says:

    I defer to the Holy Father’s wisdom. Besides,

    I saw other grotesque phantoms in which hardly a trace of the human form remained; monsters who had faced the journey to the bus stop-perhaps for them it was thousands of miles-and come up to the country of the Shadow of Life and limped far into it over the torturing grass, only to spit and gibber out in one ecstasy of hatred their envy and (what is harder to understand) their contempt, of joy. The voyage seemed to them a small price to pay if once, only once, within sight of that eternal dawn, they could tell the prigs, the toffs, the sanctimonious humbugs, the snobs, the “haves,” what they thought of them.

    “How do they come to be here at all?” I asked my Teacher.

    “I have seen that kind converted,” said he, “when those ye would think less deeply damned have gone back. Those that hate goodness are sometimes nearer than those that know nothing at all about it and think they have it already.”

    – C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

  17. avecrux says:

    The twitter account is not irrelevant at all!
    I teach high school. You should have seen the faces of the kids today when I told them the Holy Father had sent his first tweet. The kids asked permission to pull out their phones and add him on the spot. I agreed. Many instantly re-tweeted his tweet. They thought is was really cool. And that is relevant. They sense he cares about them and they do feel like he has made an effort to reach into their world. That can’t be underestimated.
    Only a couple of weeks ago, I had given them the WYD message for 2012 to read as an assignment. Some of the reflections I got from the kids were very encouraging. (I didn’t expect to like what the Pope has to say…. He really seems to care about young people… He quoted so much from the Bible – makes me think I should read it more… I didn’t realize there was so much talk of joy in the Bible…) He has the grace of state to make this decision for himself.
    I agree that there is nothing new about him being attacked. If anything, the vitriol may send my students into protective/defense mode. That would be great!

  18. Supertradmum says:

    Ok, I was going to go to bed about an hour ago, but I got semi-involved in a long twitter discussion on apostolic succession involving six or seven students across the world.

    For Europeans, youth in the Middle East and Asian, twitter is much more important than skype or email. It is extremely relevant and important, as most youth have smart phones constantly and use them. To say twitter is irrelevant is to ignore the political and social implications of the freedom people have to communicate easily and quickly across great distances.

    I voted yes, as this type of communication is so common. I imagine that the nos, no offense, had ancestors that did not like the first Pope to make a radio broadcast. First pope to appear on film: Leo XIII in 1896. First pope to make a radio broadcast: Pius XI c. 1931. First pope to have a ‘full-length movie made about him: Pius XII in 1942 . First pope to speak on TV: Pius XII http://popes-and-papacy.com/wordpress/?p=2765

    There was a first pope to use a pen instead of a quill, and a first pope to have a printing press at the Vatican.

    I think that this Pope has been inspired to connect with youth. Those who are rude are just part of the constant criticism and nastiness which is in the European newspapers, on line and in any type of medium. I cannot imagine anyone really being shocked at the horrible prejudice and hatred for the Pope and the Church. Hey, it happens everyday here in Eire.

  19. Michelle F says:

    I said “It doesn’t matter” because “maybe/I don’t know” wasn’t an option.

    I don’t use Twitter, so I don’t know much about it. I think the Holy Father’s use of it could be good if he were the one writing and posting the Tweets. I would like to see him making uncensored comments about world events, reminding people about Scripture passages, the Saints, and so on.

    He’s the pope, he should pontificate. :)

    Also, he could use it very effectively as a means of obtaining prayers for immediate, specific purposes. For example, “All, Say 1 decade of Rosary for me before bed tonight as I choose new bishops,” or “All, Say 1 decade of Rosary before bed tonight for Somalia.”

    I think this could be good, as I said, but I’m afraid it will just turn out to be another lame endeavor.

  20. Dave N. says:

    I don’t think the pope should be using Twitter, but that’s more about the specific medium than the messages, which seem fine. Twitter is first and foremost about “Look at me; my life is important!” and (thus) dominated by the glitterati and media figures for the sake of drawing attention to themselves and seeing who can get the most followers. 99.999% of what’s on Twitter is pretty trivial. I think the Holy Father runs a certain risk of trivializing the papacy as an institution for the sake of “relevancy” and wanting badly to be part of mainstream Western culture.

    In many ways I see this event as quite similar to the phenomenon of contemporary Christian music. While there may be nothing wrong with the message per se (at least sometimes), is this really the right medium to be saying it?

  21. jflare says:

    I suspect the Pope likely has about as much interest in tweeting as I do, which is to say, exceedingly little. Twitter came about as a spontaneous means of expression; it’s not well suited to a man whose every word might be examined in graphic detail.
    I can’t help but think that, even if the Holy Father, himself, sends these messages, he most likely types them in after the Vatican Press Office hands him a text to type. Most commanders of military units and/or business CEOs do more or less the same thing.

  22. jflare says:

    Michelle F,
    I hope you won’t take this the wrong way, I’m not trying to berate your argument or you.
    I would remind you though, the Pope already HAS ample means of getting his message out to the world. He has encyclicals, motu proprios, and various other forms of communications. He has an arrangement with Italian Airlines to go out into the world. For more spontaneity, he has the mouths of hundreds of bishops, a diplomatic corps, and a web site at his disposal. Or, if he wishes, he may arrange to speak with individuals–or groups–himself, if not in person.
    Or, if he REALLY feels compelled to use a computer, he certainly can establish a facebook account.
    In many ways, communicating to the world IS his job.

    I can’t think he has any real need for twitter any more than I do.

  23. fvhale says:

    Some people did not think the pope should speak over the radio. He did.
    Some people did not think the pope should appear on television. He did.
    Probably some people worried about so much papal writings and speeches and video clips being on the internet. There they are.
    I am glad the current Pope is willing to try newer forms of communication.

    I would never have purchased an iPod. Then I saw that someone gave the Pope an iPod with the spoken version of the Nova Vulgata Novum Testamentum on it. Then I got an iPod and loaded it with a (purchased) copy of those .mp3 audio files. I love to listen to it while I exercise.

    I have never tweeted (or however it is said; I am just learning to do text messages). But I just created a twitter account and am now following: @Pontifex, @newsva_it, @newsva_es, @newsva_en, @oss_romano and @Avvenire_NEI. Whatever that means. I guess I see a lot of “tweets” if I go to twitter.com on my web browser. Is that how this is used?

  24. MKR says:

    I owe my reversion to the Catholic faith after several years away from it in large part to the use that certain God-loving persons made of the Internet. I think this is a good idea.

  25. Marg says:

    I feel the 0nly advantage to the Holy Father using twitter is a kind of “Sermon in a Sentence” meditation oportunity, in this fast paced age of ours.

  26. Jacob says:

    The Holy Father’s first tweet should have been “In the Name of the Father…” in Latin.

    Personally, I think that this is a gesture, but one that will lose its novelty quite fast. People have mentioned the popes using the radio and TV, but this is something totally different. Really, are we expecting His Holiness to put out anything substantive across a medium that values brevity and only reinforces the soundbite culture we live in? The entire idea of taking questions is undermined by the fact that anonymous minders will be filtering them and probably choosing the ones least likely to cause a stir.

  27. Supertradmum says:

    fvhale, did you confirm your account, as you are not coming up on twitter search?

  28. fvhale says:

    @Supertradmum. Confirmed, yes. Probably not found on search because I have never tweeted (not worth following me, you see).

  29. Geoffrey says:

    I chose “Yes, I suppose so”. It won’t replace his homilies, catecheses, and encyclical letters, but is a good way to engage the world in order to evangelize. I think in order to answer whether or not this is good or bad, ask if St Peter, St Paul, and the other apostles would have used Twitter in their day to evangelize?

    After years of avoiding it, I suppose it’s time to get Twitter myself so that I can follow His Holiness the Pope!

  30. Maxiemom says:

    I don’t mind him tweeting if it is actually him tweeting. The clip looks to me like someone typed a message and he hit the post button. If that is the case, it’s a big fail in my book.

  31. Therese says:

    I think it’s very loving of him, and entirely within character. It’s the thought that counts, and I doubt he is at all bothered by the abuse. (Abusus non tollit usum?)

  32. PostCatholic says:

    I was a bit disappointed by this tweet from @Pontifex: “How can faith in Jesus be lived in a world without hope?” Why is the world without hope? In a sermon, Benedict is generally careful not to set up such straw men, but a limit of 140 characters may not give him the latitude.

    That point aside, I see no specific harm in spreading a message you ardently believe in to a ready-made audience. It’s putting currency into the economy of ideas, isn’t it?

  33. avecrux says:

    That video posted at the end really annoyed me. I wonder if any of the makers of it spend time with teens. I hope not. The cynicism is sickening. Fortunately, the Holy Father has far more wisdom and discretion than they do in THEIR lame attempt to be “relevant”.

  34. Therese says:

    “How can faith in Jesus be lived in a world without hope?”

    PostCatholic, I think that was one of the questions posed to the Holy Father. (Would someone please correct me here if I’m wrong?)

    Was just reading John 8: 21-29 (from a Lenten Mass) and realized that Our Lord was standing in the midst of an unruly mob when He delivered those remarks. A dignified venue? Not on your nelly. But they needed to hear it. Papa Benedict is not afraid to emulate Him.

  35. Gratias says:

    I never tweeted, but the Internet has kept traditional Catholics going. Tweeting must be similar but shorter. Benedict could merely tweet the link to his Wednesday public audiences, or his sermons, and that would help catechize many. This is a teaching Pope who seeks to convince. Benedict XVI will have a great influence for centuries. Many of our Saints have been writers.

  36. Michelle F says:


    I’m not the least bit offended by your post, but thank you for presenting it in friendly terms.

    I agree that the Holy Father has many methods for communicating with people, but his and other Vatican documents frequently do not get passed to the people in the pews, not even as a news story or a notice with a synopsis. Many bishops simply don’t pass these things along, and the mainstream media is unreliable. Think of how often the media trots out heretics like Fr. Thomas Reese, SJ and others to explain to people how the pope doesn’t mean what he says or does, and how the Second Vatican Council has been misrepresented for 45+ years.

    The Holy Father can’t rely on middlemen to keep laymen and the non-Catholic general public informed of major documents, much less his personal thoughts.

    The only thing I question about the Holy Father’s Twitter messages is who is writing them. It doesn’t seem like he is the one who is writing and posting them, and I think it would be much better if he himself were the one doing it.

    Just think of how shocked and excited people would be if the Pope himself Tweeted. Even if he sent only one Tweet a day, or only one a week, people would be glued to their devices waiting to see what he would say!

    The same would be true of a Facebook account if he set one up, and he himself posted messages on it. Whether he posted once a day or once a week, having a direct, personal, uncensored, unmediated message from the Holy Father would get everyone’s attention!

    So, while I’m all for the Holy Father using modern means of communication, I want it to be he himself doing the communicating, and not some speechwriter, committee, or whoever handles his public communications.

  37. Johnno says:

    I’ve no problem with the Pope using a radio, mp3 RSS feed, message board, forum, Facebook, Fr. Z’s combox or Youtube account for communicating with the world.

    Twitter, with all due respect, isn’t worth much like those. I’m not saying he shouldn’t, heck there’s no harm, and it might be of some good here or there.

    But the limitations of Twitter aren’t really the best place to expound or reply to complicated topics. People use twitter for news alerts and quick bits of stuff. The hateful responses on twitter are hardly scholarly inquiries, and one can’t reply to them in full using twitter. Twitter would be useful if only to link people to longer comments by the Pope in other places or directing them to Vatican site links.

    The Pope could utilize twitter to link people to broader replies hosted elsewhere to all the inquiries. But Twitter as a means in and of itself isn’t largely that useful. Heck the limitations of Twitter tend to also have the opposite effect of overblowing people’s brief comments to go places they never intended due to lack of clarity.

  38. mamajen says:

    He should probably stick to statements and not ask questions…unless the intent is to just get people thinking and he is not expecting answers from the Twitterverse. Of perhaps he is hoping that the followers of his followers will see their (good) replies to his questions and it will help evangelize. In any case, I hope nobody taught him how to view @ replies! I hate to think of him wading through all that muck.

    I said before that I doubted the Pope himself would tweet, and I stand corrected. It is kind of neat, even though I was against the idea.

  39. Ellen says:

    I’m follow several people on Twitter, mostly to follow books and humor. The pope is is on my list to follow and I am interested to see what he says. I’ll admit I don’t really get Twitter, but so many young people do. I am very glad the pope is using it.

  40. PA mom says:

    To evangelize , he needs to get right to the youth. These kids never have their phones out of their hands. (almost never, that I can tell), and so, it is an opportunity for regular communication.
    As to the meaningless mess that is the usual Twitter content, the greater the contrast the better.

    During my reversion, I had taken to watching a lot of daytime tv, and the depressing, angry, hopeless stuff on it was feeding my own depression. Looking for ANYTHING less miserable one day, I found EWTN and instead of being embarrassed by it (too Catholic), I felt relief. It was what my soul needed and what I needed, whether I thought so or not, and I kept going back. Hopefully, Twitter will be the vehicle of relief and assistance to some of them.

  41. PostCatholic says:

    PostCatholic, I think that was one of the questions posed to the Holy Father. (Would someone please correct me here if I’m wrong?)

    I didn’t realize that the questions weren’t his own rhetorical ones. Apologies. Still, the straw man is there in that question and I do think given a longer format, this pope would normally have answered that portion of the question, too.

  42. RuralVirologist says:

    Those are indeed his own tweets. You can tell that by his icon in front of them and “Benedict XVI ?@Pontifex” after the icon and above the tweet. 7 in total at present. Someone is busy. I hope it’s not him.

  43. Boniface says:

    Johnno, great comment – let’s let the haters be seen for what they are.

    But regarding whether or not the Holy Father should, er, “tweet”: this humble layman doesn’t think he should presume to pass judgment on what the Holy Father should or shouldn’t do – otherwise I’d be in a white cassock and zuchetto.

  44. MikeM says:

    There are certain benefits to the Pope being on Twitter. One is that it makes it seem more natural for bishops and priests to be on there, and I see most things that break down some of the imagined barriers between Catholic clergy and the rest of society as a positive. A lot of people have a natural tendency to “feel weird” seeing a priest or bishop outside of their usual context. I once had a friend comment that “It was weird! I saw Fr. ___ at the grocery store,” as if she had previously been under the impression that rectory refrigerators miraculously refilled themselves; that the lunch meat came down like manna from Heaven. I think the Pope’s Twitter will get people used to clergy on Twitter, which will hopefully make other priests feel more comfortable jumping in. I imagine that regularly seeing pithy messages from parish priests could help Catholics to feel more connected with the Church in their day to day lives.

    Another positive is that it makes it easier for us lay Catholics to do our job in bringing our Faith to people. When the Pope opened his Twitter account, I saw a few Muslims tweeting to him about their rejection of the Trinity. It gave me a chance to offer a Catholic explanation. I’m not under the impression that I convinced them, but I know that a few other people saw and commented or retweeted… I think the Papal Twitter can help start discussions and can be a step, albeit a small one, towards putting Christians and our Faith back into public dialogue.

    Of course, there are some potential pitfalls.

    I’m not worried about the anti-Catholicism that gets spewed. That was going to be expressed in countless forums, anyway. And I think that the character limit can, at times, be an aid… there’s something to be said for expressing things briefly (not always my strong suit), without hiding behind big philosophical words. The core messages of the Gospel are simple and accessible. John 3:16 (RSV) is 123 characters.

    I think that it’s important that the Pope avoid doing certain things on Twitter, though. For example, I think that using Twitter to express positions on political events (however grave the situation might be) would be a mistake. Some Catholics in the Philippines are trying to get the Pope to comment on the reproductive health bill there, via Twitter. That could set an unfortunate precedent. If the Pope tweets about one issue, people could read something into it when he doesn’t tweet about another… I think it would be a general PR nightmare. So, I hope he sticks to core Gospel messages, the occasional greeting/well-wish, and maybe some event announcements or non-controversial personal updates.

  45. MikeM says:

    RuralVirologist, PostCatholic, et al,

    For the questions, he (or, whoever is typing these things out for him) tweeted questions that would be answered before answering them. The questions originated with other twitter users and they just copied and pasted.

    I’m not sure why they didn’t use the retweet button for that… I guess it was to avoid publicizing the accounts of those who asked the questions. I guess that’s a good idea… both to limit the harassment that questioners might get and to avoid inadvertently publicizing an account which could take a turn for the anti-Catholic later. I saw the original tweet with the hopeless world question when I was watching the @Pontifex feed, though, so I know that it was asked by someone else.

  46. Pingback: Pope Benedict Tweets | Big Pulpit

  47. TxBSonnier says:

    My thoughts on it are that while I think it could be good in general, I’m not sure about Pope Benedict tweeting. That is, I don’t think he should try to squish himself into a style of communication that he’s not comfortable, and therefor less effective, with. However I can see it being VERY effective for some of his successors, as they will have been at least introduced to it, if not an active tweeter, for a much longer period of time, possibly while they were forming their writing and teaching styles.

  48. acardnal says:

    PostCatholic, following up on what Therese said above, herewith the news item from VIS that indicates that the Pope was responding to a question from the audience regarding hope:

    Vatican City, 13 December 2012 (VIS) – @Pontifex, Pope Benedict XVI’s Twitter account, attracted over a million and a half followers on its first day of existence. The Pope, after his first tweet at the end of the usual Wednesday general audience, responded during the course of the day to three questions posed by members of the public from three different continents. The first was: “How can we celebrate the Year of Faith better in our daily lives?”. The Holy Father’s answer was “By speaking with Jesus in prayer, listening to what he tells you in the Gospel and looking for him in those in need”.
    Shortly afterwards a second question was added: “How can faith in Jesus be lived in a world without hope?”. “We can be certain that a believer is never alone. God is the solid rock upon which we build our lives and his love is always faithful”, responded Benedict XVI.
    The final tweet, posted around 6 p.m., was: “Offer everything you do to the Lord, ask his help in all the circumstances of daily life and remember that he is always beside you”, in response to: “Any suggestions on how to be more prayerful when we are so busy with the demands of work, families and the world?”

  49. acardnal says:

    I said “audience” above but meant to say “the twitter public.”

  50. PostCatholic says:

    Thank you.

    I do not think we live in a “world without hope.” I don’t think Benedict XVI does, either.

  51. The Masked Chicken says:

    “I teach high school. You should have seen the faces of the kids today when I told them the Holy Father had sent his first tweet. The kids asked permission to pull out their phones and add him on the spot. I agreed. Many instantly re-tweeted his tweet. They thought is was really cool. And that is relevant. They sense he cares about them and they do feel like he has made an effort to reach into their world. That can’t be underestimated.”

    This is very frustrating. The latest education idea a few years, ago, was that young people are, “digital natives,” growing up, immersed, in real-time social communication. Guess what, recent studies (ah, real science, for a change) have exploded that notion. They are digitally-adapted, just as older generations are refrigerator-adapted, seeing the technology as something that is there to be used or not without much thought. That is the key. Kids who live for the latest tweet or live or die by the latest Facebook post are, really, evidencing a form of mildly deviant behavior, a disorder in relationship formation, wherein virtual relationships are processed as those of flesh-and-blood.

    The brain functions on a use-it-or-lose-it platform. I just read a (in my opinion) really dumb study that came out, today, that said that people who get away into nature for three or four days show enhanced creativity. True enough, but the researchers were clueless as to why. Recent fMRI studies are showing that the Internet and Social sites encourage a horizontal processing of data. The person acts as a transfer pont and not a data hub. The problem-solving areas of the brain are artificially stimulated to make rapid (read, shallow) decoding of the information online, while, simultaneously suppressing the vertical processing, which is essential for true creativity (creativity is something which we don’t really understand, which is another reason this study is flawed). Fine. Any time away from the Internet will enhance creativity, so the study just happens to be true because nature is away from the Internet. This is the faux Mozart-smart baby phenomenon, all over.

    My point is that, as a vehicle for anything other than the sign-off sermonettes that t.v. stations used to have, it is pretty useless, unless one resorts to a true communicative short-hand, such as mathematics, which is designed for idea compression. One can make a pithy statement, such as the ghost-writer (I am assuming) for the Pope is making, but these tweets are nothing more than greeting card formulaies, which have the meat of a two-week old starving dog and are tailor-made for people who have the concentration span of a truck-mauled hedgehog.

    It is not the Pope who should be condescending to this mode of communication; is is the young who should be launching into the deep to swim down into the awe and mystery of the faith.

    There is no evangelization going on, here. Unlike a blog, where the poster can develop an idea, meet counter-examples and really dispute in the time-honored sense of a man talking to a man, tweets are really for finished products, for summarizing the end of a process, not taking one through the highways and by-ways of thought.

    I want young people to be strong men of thought and patience, ready to act from deep wisdom and experience, not shallow, emotionally-needy relationship junkies. We have twitter because we do not have a patrimony captivating enough for young people to want to be involved in it. Twitter is only and ever of the now. It is a poor vehicle from which to preach eternity.

    The Chicken

  52. blackcharlie says:

    He’s doing what he has, no doubt, considered beforehand and decided is a good thing to do. I personally don’t “get” the twitter scene at all. It seems to produce an overabundance of foolishness and glorify the indecent lack of depth and thoughtfulness that the we so easily slide into these days — the idea that wisdom and understanding can be attained through 30 second soundbites alone. Twitter seems to me to be one of the best examples of that idiotic attitude.

    And having said that, I would add that I trust Papa 100%, and think that he is likely to be just the right person, right now, here on earth to bring something better out of something that is generally so stupid. And that the Holy Ghost guides this Pope in ways that would make my head spin for the rest of my life were they known to me. So where Papa goes, I will follow. Now, I’ll be signing myself on to a Twitter account thingy, as I did previously on YouTube when Papa went there a while ago, so I can see and hear what Papa has to say to this goofy, electronic media crazed world which I am a part of, and surrounded by, like it or not.

    Viva il Papa!

  53. avecrux says:

    “Kids who live for the latest tweet or live or die by the latest Facebook post…” Not quite sure how you arrived at that assumption, Masked Chicken. Wanting to add the Holy Father to your Twitter account because your teacher has just told you about it is a evidence of mild deviancy? That means kids are living for their latest tweet? Living and dying by their last Facebook post? Way to make assumptions about a group of kids you have absolutely no knowledge of.

  54. avecrux says:

    PS – also curious why, Masked Chicken, you made no reference to the second part of that post in which I said that two weeks ago I had given them the Holy Father’s entire WYD message of 2012 to read, answer 10 questions on and write a reflection…. in other words, they are “launching into the deep”. They also prepared group typology projects, they can tell you why Scripture is inerrant, what the senses of Scripture are, how to read Scripture as the Church teaches in the CCC, etc… and a group of them have founded an on campus prayer group that meets for adoration every week. Why would tweeting and these things be mutually exclusive? (Oh – and on a side note, for their extra credit they are currently reading Mulieris Dignitatem.)

  55. The Cobbler says:

    “I once had a friend comment that “It was weird! I saw Fr. ___ at the grocery store,” as if she had previously been under the impression that rectory refrigerators miraculously refilled themselves; that the lunch meat came down like manna from Heaven.”
    Priests need refrigerators and lunchmeat? They don’t live off the Word of God they spend all their spare waking hours reading, aside from the ones spent praying, if there’s even a difference for them anymore? I’m confused!


    “I do not think we live in a “world without hope.” I don’t think Benedict XVI does, either.”
    The world seems spiffy enough, but those stupid humans…


    “This is the faux Mozart-smart baby phenomenon, all over.”
    Thanks for sending a replacement — your baby has special needs.


  56. The Cobbler says:

    More seriously, I think some of us are concerned that Facebook and Twitter, and especially Twitter due to its brevity requirement, almost inevitably gravitate, if not plummet, toward the sort of argument that’s just the making of contradictory claims by multiple parties in opposition — explored decades ago by Monty Python:

    Yes, that was the more serious observation.

  57. catholicmidwest says:

    Pope Benedict XVI was a teacher. He’s had students. I’m pretty sure he probably “gets it.” I’m sorry to see him having to look at this nonsense. The question is, do some of the privileged people around him get it?

    It would do some of the US bishops good to get out more and see what the rest of us really put up with. They might “get” what they’re looking at in politics & culture more–and stop being taken to the cleaners like rubes all the time. Their naivety is getting old. And dangerous. : /

  58. StWinefride says:

    Chicken you say “it is the young who should be launching into the deep to swim down into the awe and mystery of the faith”.

    I understand that you’re looking at the “Big Picture”. And it reminds me of a quote by Prof. Dietrich von Hildebrand who said regarding the Mass, although this quote can be more generally applied:

    …For the question is whether we better meet Christ in the Mass by soaring up to Him, or by dragging Him down into our own pedestrian, workaday world”.

    All this Twitter business had me re-reading Michael Davies’ book, Liturgical Time Bombs in Vatican II, from where the above quote was taken. Although this book mainly talks about the liturgical reforms, Mr Davies again quotes Prof. Dietrich von Hildebrand, who makes some important general points:

    They (the innovators) seem to be unaware of the elementary importance of sacredness in religion. Thus, they dull the sense of the sacred and thereby undermine true religion. Their “democratic” approach makes them overlook the fact that in all men who have a longing for God there is also a longing for the sacred and a sense of difference between the sacred and the profane. The worker or peasant has this sense as much as any intellectual. If he is a Catholic, he will desire to find a sacred atmosphere in the Church, and this remains true whether the world is urban, industrial or not….Many priests believe that replacing the sacred atmosphere that reigns, for example, in the marvellous churches of the Middle Ages or the Baroque epoch, and in which the Latin Mass was celebrated, with a profane, functionalist, neutral, humdrum atmosphere will enable the Church to encounter the simple man in charity. But this is a fundamental error. It will not fulfill his deepest longing; it will merely offer him stones for bread. Instead of combatting the irreverence so widespread today, these priests are actually helping to propagate this irreverence”.

    Twitter can only offer “stones for bread”.

  59. The Masked Chicken says:


    I do appreciate what you do for your students. I was commenting on the problems with Twitter, only. As to kids on the Internet, what I said was:

    “Kids who live for the latest tweet or live or die by the latest Facebook post are, really, evidencing a form of mildly deviant behavior, a disorder in relationship formation, wherein virtual relationships are processed as those of flesh-and-blood.

    Many kids take Twitter on a use-it-or-not basis, like tv or a refrigerator, but many also are so attached to the dopamine hit that can come from the Internet that it poses or indicates problems in their understanding of what a relationship is.

    Consider: there are three classes of relics: first-class, which is a part of the saint’s physical body, second-class, which is something the saint owned, and third-class, which is something touched to a first class relic. Why does the Church insist on this physicality? We have a letter signed by St. Joan of Arc (her “X”) which is a second-class relic. No e-mail will ever be the same. No one can touch an e-mail to anything. No saint owns an e-mail. Relationships require a meeting of equals. Now it is possible to have a relationship with people by e-mail, but it takes time, lots of time. Twitter is not a repository of the efforts of thought in the same way a book or an extended blog post (essentially mini-books or letters) is. It is a flash in a pan. It encourages quick, shallow relationships – punch and run. It is for the summarizing of a personality, not the exposition of it.

    Of course, this goes along with the degradation of aesthetic sensibilities, wholesale, in today’s youths. There simply is little aesthetic depth in them. More and more, their experiences are mediated by a technology that distances them from contact with the real costs of bring human. You can see it in the generally increasing rudeness of the young. They don’t care about people in the same way older people, who grew up with real friends, do.

    Consider: last year, the first Broadway musical with no live musicians was staged. Modern musicians live in fear that theirs is a dying art. Mark my works, within fifty years, actors will no longer exist on the movie screen. They will all be realistic computer-generated simulacra. Those kids will have reality and fantasy blurred in a frightening way. Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself, but how can you love your neighbor if you cannot even be sure that your neighbor is real? We come to know ourselves in the actions we give to others. We are on the cusp of a profound societal transformation, where moral and aesthetic sensibilities will be mediated by created electronic entities. I don’t know how to say this. How much formation of personality will a future child owe to what he encounters on the future version of the Internet? I think the end of the world must come before that.

    A tweet is like a mini skirt – little subtlety, meant to capture the passions, meant to expose. I could make a case that Tweets are a mild form of unchaste communication. In my opinion, only people who have rock-solid on-going human relationships should be using Twitter. I don’t have quite the same problem with instant messaging – it has a specific target, so the relationship density is higher.

    I could resort to Information Theory, a bit, to try to explain some of these concepts, but we don’t have a good handle on emotional communication structures nor the mechanics of relationship formation – we are, still, very much at the level of intuition, feeling along the path. All I can offer, here, is my intuition and the little science we do know. Twitter will help only a very small number of people, really help them, to come closer to God, which is the goal of the New Evangelization. It is true that St. John of the Cross’s aphorisms were collected as, “The Sayings of Light and Love,” but behind the aphorisms we had the life of the man. His aphorisms are nothing more than a short-hand for the sum of his life in a way a tweet will never be. Those slips of paper he gave to the nuns were nothing less than his thoughts passing through his flesh onto the paper. They are second-class relics.

    We need flesh and blood.

    Let me end with a quote from Jacob Bronowski from the episode entitled, “Knowledge or Certainty,” from his series, The Ascent of Man. As he stood, in funeral black suit and tie, in the dumping pond for the bodies at Auschwitz, Bronowski, a Jew, said:

    “There are two parts to the human dilemma. One is the belief that the end justifies the means. That push-button philosophy, that deliberate deafness to suffering, has become the monster in the war machine. The other is the betrayal of the human spirit: the assertion of dogma that closes the mind, and turns a nation, a civilisation, into a regiment of ghosts – obedient ghosts, or tortured ghosts.

    It is said that science will dehumanise people and turn them into numbers. That is false, tragically false. Look for yourself. This is the concentration camp and crematorium at Auschwitz. This is where people were turned into numbers. Into this pond were flushed the ashes of some four million people. And that was not done by gas. It was done by arrogance. It was done by dogma. It was done by ignorance. When people believe that they have absolute knowledge, with no test in reality, this is how they behave. This is what men do when they aspire to the knowledge of gods.

    Science is a very human form of knowledge. We are always at the brink of the known, we always feel forward for what is to be hoped. Every judgment in science stands on the edge of error, and is personal. Science is a tribute to what we can know although we are fallible. In the end the words were said by Oliver Cromwell: ‘I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken’.

    I owe it as a scientist to my friend Leo Szilard, I owe it as a human being to the many members of my family who died at Auschwitz, to stand here by the pond as a survivor and a witness. We have to cure ourselves of the itch for absolute knowledge and power. We have to close the distance between the push-button order and the human act. We have to touch people.”

    The Chicken

  60. Dismas says:

    I first thought it a bad idea, but have now shifted to I suppose it may be a good idea. I posted something similar earlier today under Wither Papal Tweets?:

    Wither Papal Tweets? My first thought was that papal tweets may not be a good idea until I read, this morning, our Holy Father’s address to ambassadors on Education. It seems to answer for me the need of the Holy Fathers presence on twitter.


    “In his address to the diplomats, the Pope focused on the theme of education, one of the principal challenges of our times and which today is located “in a context in which the evolution of ways of life and forms of knowledge create human, cultural, social and spiritual ruptures hitherto unknown in the history of humanity”.”

    The ‘ruptures hitherto unknown in history” statement is striking, I would love to see this premise developed more clearly in some doctoral dissertations. The ruptures are something I perceive or suspect but don’t have the intellect to properly identify or articulate.

    At any rate, good or bad regarding Twitter, I’m now grateful for our Holy Father’s newest presence of @pontifex. I suppose it may be a good idea.

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