Pope Francis’ Twitter account – @pontifex – has reached a milestone: 40 million followers in nine languages. The figure is significant not only in itself, but in what it represents for the Holy Father, who, like his predecessor, desires to be a Christian witness among many on the ‘Digital Continent’, especially through social media.
According to the Prefect of the Secretariat for Communication, Msgr Dario Edoardo Viganò, who is entrusted with the co-ordination of the Papal accounts on Twitter and Instagram, ‘40 million followers means 40 million people, 40 million hearts, minds, and passions. It is a world, a relationship, a community: this figure emphasizes that so many people continue to follow, day after day, even by way of [140-character bursts], the Pope’s Magisterium, which reaches people in very different ways: from official speeches, to unscripted encounters, to Twitter characters.
Along with a number of Irish dioceses that are on Twitter, Irish bishops with a personal twitter presence include @ArchbishopEamon, @McKDonal, @BishopDNulty, @KevinElphin and @BishopFintan.
Asked about the Holy Father’s social media presence more specifically, especially on Twitter and Instagram (where Pope Francis shares photos and videos under his @franciscus handle), Msgr Viganò said, ‘The Pope takes great care of his social profiles, to such an extent that he closely and carefully checks all the tweets, which are then published.’ He went on to say, ‘This concern speaks to the [Pope’s] care for relationships. So, the Pope who calls himself a “grandfather,” who claims to be far from new technologies, nevertheless intuits that there is a world – the social media world – that is made up of people.’
Msgr Viganò also said, ‘The Church is born when the Holy Spirit overwhelms the disciples and opens the doors of the Upper Room and they take to the streets of the world. Today, among these streets are the so-called social communities. That is why the Pope is very attentive to this reality: because any relationship needs care, which is to say cor urat, that is, “to warm the heart” even through a few letters.’
Mentioning how Pope Francis can be taken as an example of how to use social media, so that the Internet is, ‘a network not of wires but of people,’ as he himself wrote in his first Message for the World Day of Social Communications? Msgr Viganò said, ‘This also collects the inheritance of Pope emeritus Benedict [XVI], who has made some very interesting speeches on the Net. I believe that the further step, the one we might summarize as “from the click to the heart”, is to imagine a community of believers, who leave traces of the allure of the Gospel of Mercy even on the Net.’
Source: Vatican Radio