Ash Wednesday marks the start of the Lenten season and as Catholics prepare themselves for the Easter feast, Pope Benedict XVI has his mind on those who “no longer keep the Lenten season in any special way.”
Starting on Ash Wednesday, which this year occurred Feb. 22, the faithful and the curious can follow the Pope on Twitter, an attempt “to attract the media-savvy generation and entice them to find out more."
That’s according to Vatican Radio, in an online news report posted by The Vatican Today, which anticipates the thought that might come to mind in learning that one can follow the Pope on Twitter:
Is “it all just another technological gimmick that ‘dumbs down’ the message of the Church?”
Not at all, according to Monsignor Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, who is quoted as saying, “many of the key Gospel ideas are readily rendered in just 140 characters.”
Will the @Pope2YouVatican handle be confined to Lent?
Not likely, given the “phenomenal success” the site had at the time of its launch, reported to be “more than five million hits in the first week or two of its operation,” according to Tighe.
The Telegraph reports that the Pope first tweeted on June 29, 2011, noting that “the Vatican has embraced the use of social media platforms to spread the Church’s message and has been encouraging priests to blog and engage with their communities online.” (Editor's Note: Priests are invited to join the Patch blogging community by becoming one of our “Local Voices.")
Tighe noted that the “level of interest was such that we’ve kept [the tweets] going by focusing on the big themes in the life of the Church, Christmas, Easter, World Youth Day."
As of 4:50 a.m. Feb. 23, @Pope2YouVatican had 4,418 followers and 526 tweets. Tweets can be followed as well at www.Pope2you.net, which includes iPhone and iPod Touch applications and invitations to meet the Pope on Facebook and watch the Pope on YouTube.
Coming each day during Lent will be postings focused on themes from Pope Benedict’s 2012 lenten message, with the likelihood that future papal speeches and documents will be posted on Twitter in a similar way.
"To those who say it’s dumbing down, no, this is entry level, to provoke people’s interest,” Tighe said. “This is not the only way the Church speaks but it’s an avenue that is open to us and it’s pithy, succinct and it’s one I think that we’re quite good at.”