Pope on social networking: the virtual is real

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 24, 2013 at 9:08 am •  Published: January 24, 2013
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But the digital exposure hasn't come without risk or criticism: In the days after the Vatican announced that Benedict would respond to questions about faith on his first tweets from his (at)Pontifex handle last month, the Vatican was bombarded with threats of "Twitter bombs" from critics trying to scare the pope away from the online social forum.

"Leaving would've been a mistake," said Monsignor Paul Tighe, the No. 2 in the Vatican's social communications office. "It wouldn't have been fair to abandon all the people who joyfully welcomed the pope's message."

Celli acknowledged that much of the pope's message this year repeated exhortations from previous years about the need for respectful dialogue online, for users to present themselves authentically and to listen, not just preach.

"At first look it could look like reheated soup," Celli conceded. But he said that sometimes messages need repeating, particularly in the 2,000-year-old Catholic Church. "I don't want to make any particular revelations here, but don't believe that everything that is said is absorbed at the ecclesial level."

Celli noted, for example, that at a recent Vatican meeting of the world's bishops on spreading the faith, the recommendations for the church's social communications strategy "could have been written 30 years ago."

"That means that he who is intervening doesn't have the perception of what is happening today, in the sphere of social networking," Celli said. "That's a problem for us."

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