Vatican Says the Church Can't Ignore Social Media

By Gibson, David | The Christian Century, June 25, 2014 | Go to article overview

Vatican Says the Church Can't Ignore Social Media


Gibson, David, The Christian Century


Social media can bring out the worst in people, and even Pope Francis's enormously popular Twitter feed is peppered with nasty comments. But the Vatican's chief media strategist says the Catholic Church cannot ignore the opportunities for evangelization that the Internet offers.

"In our church we are always fishing inside the aquarium," Archbishop Claudio Celli, head of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, told a gathering of journalists May 22. "And we forget that most fish are outside the aquarium."

Unless the church engages social media, he said, "we will wind up talking to ourselves."

In his talk at a celebration of the church's World Communications Day, organized by the Diocese of Brooklyn, and in other comments during a trip to New York, Celli acknowledged that social media platforms can serve as pulpits for personal attacks and can foment divisions rather than fostering community.

Speaking to digital media executives in New York on May 21, for example, Celli said that the Vatican has resisted entreaties by Facebook to set up a page for Pope Francis because ugly comments are harder to monitor on Facebook.

He said that Vatican officials spend enough time as it is "cleaning up" the Facebook page for the Vatican's news portal; they delete obscenities but let polite criticism stand.

Celli said that nasty remarks on Twitter are less prominent so it's less of a concern. The pope has 4 million followers on his @pontifex account, and Celli said conservative estimates indicate that through retweets and other forms of sharing some 60 million people see the brief messages--usually sent out once a day in nine languages.

"We are not naive" about the perils of social media, Celli said in an interview. …

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