In December 2012, Pope Benedict XVI—or @Pontifex, as he’s also known—let out his first official tweet. Now, he’s on a mission to get other Catholic Church leaders to follow him into the Twittersphere.
In his annual message on social communications on Thursday, Benedict, 85, stipulated that social networking sites are not merely virtual worlds that church leaders can ignore; they’re real worlds, and important worlds, at that—necessary for spreading the Catholic faith to the next generation of believers.
“The digital environment is not a parallel or purely virtual world, but is part of the daily experience of many people, especially the young,” Benedict said in the message. “Social networks are the result of human interaction, but for their part they also reshape the dynamics of communication which builds relationships: a considered understanding of this environment is therefore the prerequisite for a significant presence there.”
Evidently, Benedict was not speaking Facebook’s name in vain. According to a 2012 study by U.S. bishops, 53 percent of Americans were unaware that the Catholic Church had any sort of online presence—a fact stated by Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, head of the Vatican’s communications office.
And, as Archbishop Celli also pointed out, because much of today’s youth look to social media as their primary source of information, it will be especially important for the Church to take up residence online.
So far, Benedict is setting a strong example. In case you’ve never had the pleasure of following @Pontifex on Twitter, know that so far, Benedict’s Twitter presence has been crazily popular. He’s only tweeted 26 times since December, but he’s already gathered 2.5 million followers (okay, so he’s still behind Kendall Jenner, Joe Jonas and Soulja Boy, but the guy’s 85—give him a break).
Archbishop Celli helped make Benedict’s message clear when he cited a recent Vatican meeting, where the world’s bishops brainstormed strategies to spread the Catholic faith. The recommendations they ultimately produced “could have been written 30 years ago,” he said.
“That means that he who is intervening doesn’t have the perception of what is happening today, in the sphere of social networking,” Archbishop Celli said. “That’s a problem for us.”
So, Catholic Church leaders of the world, get on social media #now #important #WhatWouldJesusDo?