While growing up, going to CCD on Sundays, I remember hearing stories of God speaking through a burning bush…. In 2015 that burning bush happens to have a twitter handle and its @Pontifex.
Ok… so maybe the Pope (@Pontifex) being on Twitter isn’t exactlyyyy the same the thing as God speaking through a burning bush… but the new Jesuit Pope is certainly setting the world aflame with his use of social media. On December 12, 2013, Pope Benedict XVI (Pope Francis’ predecessor) became the first Pope to create a Twitter account. His newest commandment for Priests that were trying to get their messages across at the time was to “Go Forth and Blog”  In fact 9 official twitter accounts were made so that the Pope’s followers could get his tweets in different languages. One can now read the Pope’s tweets in English, Spanish, Italian, French, Arabic, German, Polish, Portuguese, and Latin, and between all 9 handles, the Pope in 2015 currently has 18.659 million followers. The estimated figure for Roman Catholics in the World is 1.2 billion and while all of the world’s Catholics may not be following Pope Francis on Twitter, the Pope can pride himself in the fact that he currently has more followers than artist Kanye West. But hey, “Na-na-na that that don’t kill us, Can only make us stronger”, right Kanye?
While some Church officials still remain weary of using technology due to it’s tendency to “trivialize sex and promote violence”, the Church has certainly seen a rise in the number of youths they are reaching as a result of using social media. In Fact, Archbishop Claudio Celli, head of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, told a gather of journalists that, “In our church we are always fishing inside the aquarium…And we forget that most fish are outside the aquarium.” If the Church were to abstain from using social media, it would run the risk of merely talking to itself, which is why the Pope’s use of social media has allowed the church to reach a wider audience—especially that of the youth.
With this past year’s World Youth Day that took place in Rio de Janiero, Pope Francis offered a reward to people who followed the catholic youth event on Twitter and other social media platforms. Now these are not the same indulgences that were sold in the Renaissance period as a get-out-of-jail-free cards, these indulgences can only be given to those with sincere faiths. The Pope is really trying hard to increase youth involvement in the Church through his use of social media, and strictly based on followers, he appears to be doing just that.
For an institution that has historically been criticized for being behind the social curve, the Pope has certainly made significant strides in bringing the Church into a new era. In fact, Vatican Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi claims that the first twitter user was in fact Jesus. He says that the 140-character limit of tweets are indicative of the short, meaningful messages Jesus imparted to his followers in the Bible. Now whether or not this is true is beside the point, the Church is certainly heading in the right direction with its use of Twitter.
In addition to twitter, the Vatican has also created an Instagram page so that followers can stay updated on the travels of the Pope and all things Catholic. With 20.6k followers, it still has a long way to go, but it is a step in the right direction for the Church.
While the Pope may not be speaking through a burning bush, he is certainly setting the world aflame with social media!