@Pontifex Papa Comes to Twitter! #HabemusPapam

So, the big news this morning is the rollout of Pope Benedict XVI’s new twitter handle, which is @Pontifex.

You can also follow feeds using the hashtags #HabemusPapam and even #AskPontifex, because His Holiness will be taking the occasional question. The man has written bajillions of brilliant, instructive, eye-opening and mind-blowing words, and now he is going to tackle the 140 character theology challenge of twitter!

Huzzah, sez I! This is the logical and savvy next step in the Vatican’s outreach to the denizens of cyberspace. In my remarks at the Vatican/Blogger meet-up of 2011, I had said, “The church needs us to be where the sheep are grazing, so that we may help them find the better pastures.” And in the recent Bishops-to-Bloggers meetup in Baltimore, Mary DeTurris Poust spelled it out: “Like it or not, Facebook is the new Parish Hall.”

The church has always been quick to identify mission territory and to send forth eager workers. Online outreach is a very different sort of mission; material and corporeal needs are almost besides the point. On the internet the church is missioning in the ether — the exact spot where light and dark are constantly waging the war that so readily spills into our realities. The ether (and the ethernet) is a place of random chaos (consider the fits-and-stops, the dark-and-light at odds within your own soul of a single day, and then magnify it times the square footage of every planet in the universe, and the sun!) and the instantaneous reach of cyberspace contributes to the chaos — so much sound and fury, usually signifying nothing — but it also has the power to penetrate it with a spear-tipped accuracy. Just as one well-timed and pithy blogpost, or one virally-shared chart can often shift a a national conversation and a mood, 140 well-chosen characters can be used by the Holy Spirit to tweak a conscience, pierce a heart and open a mind.

The flip side to that, of course, is that the Evil can use these same tools to anesthetize a conscience, and close a heart– the internet is a place of simultaneously visible and invisible energy, simultaneously positive and negative effect and that is precisely why the Vicar of Christ needs to be engaged within it, particularly this Vicar, who is all-too-familiar with how easily mobs can be swayed to embrace their worst devils instead of their better angels. He knows very well that, ultimately, the mob wants something, but they are not cognizant of what that something is, and that within that dissatisfied, searching state, the Dictatorship of Relativism wields its power. It was around sowing discontent within the mob the desert (“in Egypt we had melons and meat!”) and amid the confused the mob in Jerusalem (“we have no king but Caesar! Give us Barabbas!”)

What does the crowd want? I’ve always wondered about the name of Barabbas. If Bar means “son of” and “Abbas” is translated as “father”, then Pilate was offering the mob a choice between Jesus, the man (ecce homo) and the Son of the Father. He was offering the choice between the flesh and the material over the spiritual and the ethereal; the earth or the ether?

And hey, the people chose the Son of the Father. They chose the ether. Now they need to be helped to find him, there.

So, the Vicar of Christ is coming before the cybermob, where he will be greeted by many who love, and also by many who hate. Some haters have already started.

I personally would love it if the Holy Father’s first tweet was:

What you gonna do? Haters gonna hate! I have a mustard seed and am not afraid to use it. Let’s talk about the Son of the Father! @Pontifex

In all seriousness, his first tweet will probably be “Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!”

Benedict will launch his first tweet on December 12, feastday of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas and of the unborn.

Pray for His Holiness as he steps into the teeming crowd that thinks it knows what it wants, but does not even realize what it is they are seeking, or for whom they are crying out.


Tom McDonald with more.

Antonio Spadaro, SJ: Cybertheology: Thinking about Christianity in the Era of the ‘Net

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Adam

    Huh. I just checked my Eerdman’s Dictionary of the Bible and double-checked my Catholic Study Bible. Not only is he “son of the father,” but some translations have Barabbas’ first name as…you guessed it, “Jesus.” So it’s literally: “Who do you want: Jesus, Son of the Father, or Jesus, son of the father?”

    I continue to be simultaneously amazed at and disappointed by what we’ve lost in translating the Bible into English. Off topic, but here’s one I’ve wondered about: the high priest Caiphas’ name more properly translates into Aramaic as “Kephas”–Peter’s proper name. Since the high priesthood was a VERY important role in Judaism, I’ve often wondered if Jesus was pretty much saying “I build my church on THIS rock (Simon), not THAT rock (Caiaphas)!” I’ve never seen a Biblical scholar definitively say this was the case, but it strikes me as too much of a coincidence.

  • conservativemama

    ” He knows very well that, ultimately, the mob wants something, but they are not cognizant of what that something is, and that within that dissatisfied, searching state, the Dictatorship of Relativism wields its power.”

    This statement is so true. I have a daughter, recent college graduate, who during her four years at school came to know so many young people who were truly lost, untethered. Raised by a generation that thought it was remaking the world but really all they were doing was having an eternal toddler style fit against the grown-ups. Their children are lost and they are paying a heavy price for having no strong beliefs in anything. They’re grasping at people and substances and belief in anything because they’re empty. It was very sad to witness.

  • Midwest Mom

    I love your dream tweet for Pope Benedict! I’m hoping to see in one of his tweets to his flock (sheeps / peeps) “Peace out ” to which we tweet back “Word to your mother” in reference to Mary. (Now you know why my C.C.D. raps never took off as a profitable career move).

    I concur about the reality of social media and the positive and negative impact of its use and abuse. I have seen the impact of prayer requests which have been forwarded to others with such rapid speed and distance, it is truly a blessing of the wonders of technology. It even brings different faiths together for the purpose of praying for someone and/or for a specific purpose. It never ceases to astound me how the power of prayer can bring strangers together toward a common goal and combining efforts to share God’s love, benevolence, and compassion, as well as expressions of gratitude and appreciation.

    The negative aspects, without a doubt, are numerous and astonishingly beyond our capacity to keep up with despite our best efforts. It’s not just the guy in a trench coat popping out from the bushes who we need to focus solely upon, it’s the world wide web which has become a real life version of Pandora’s Box, which we’ve opened and need to show discretion, as well.

    In terms of sharing information through social media, you can’t beat the ability and potential of reaching an audience of like minded people with such ease. I am hoping someone can recommend the best way to reach parents of Catholic as well as other Christian faiths with information concerning the Church of Scientology’s “Way to Happiness” front group’s access to personal information, including names, ages, addresses, etc. of past and recent Eagle Scouts.

    This is horrifying to me, since the Church of Scientology is not a faith of God, but is a dangerous cult. It’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard, stated in his “scriptures” blasphemous things about Jesus, even calling Jesus, Our Lord, a pedophile, in addition to other horrible lies.

    Investigative journalist Tony Ortega (who writes a blog to expose the dangers of Scientology) wrote an article yesterday (December 2, 2012) on his blog TonyOrtega.org which revealed the booklet which the Church of Scientology is sending, with permission of the Boy Scouts of America, to every Eagle Scout in America. This is meant to recruit for the cult’s Sea Org, which is not only a lifelong commitment but they are forced to sign a one billion year contract and given horrific duties for about 40 dollars (if that) a week and they are cut off from their families. No, I am not kidding. It sounds crazy because it is crazy. It is also evil.

    Please , I am praying that someone can help me get this information out quickly and in the most efficient way possible. I’ve sent a letter to the Boy Scouts of America to complain and encourage anyone reading this to read the article on Tony Ortega’s site and to voice your complaint. Together, we can expose the evils that this cult practices. Thank you so much and may God’s blessings be especially abundant to you and all who read this and who help!

  • Victor

    Personally speaking, I think that His Holiness should just stick to praying for U>S (usual sinners) but then again what do I know? :(

    I hear ya! Hey NOW! What does sinner vic say about “IT” all?

    Go Figure :)