Pope’s Twitter Success Praised as Evangelisation Breakthrough


Pope Benedict’s mass of 2.5 million followers in eight languages during his first month on Twitter has one Vatican priest calling the pontiff’s online presence “a new frontier” of evangelization.

Father Paolo Padrini, a collaborator of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, said it is good that the Pope has so many followers, but it even more important that the Pope “seeks to co-exist and share on Twitter.”

“Being present in social media is evangelizing, if just for the fact that he is present with his words,” he told CNA Jan. 11.

“It’s a great joy to see the Pope’s words being disseminated, a joy that is held by all believers.”

Twitter is a social media service that allows users to send out 140-character messages, called “tweets,” to other users who follow their accounts. Followers and others may then share these tweets with their own followers with a “re-tweet.”

The Pope’s first tweet on his personal account went out on Dec. 12, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Over 64,000 people retweeted his introductory message on his English-language account “Pontifex,” while over 33,000 did so for his Spanish-language account “Pontifex_es.”

As of Jan. 11, he has sent out only 21 tweets. He has shared his favorite memory of Christmas, asked for prayers for an end to the Syria conflict and exhorted others to look to Jesus Christ.

“Following Christ’s example, we have to learn to give ourselves completely,” the Pope said on Twitter Jan. 9. “Anything else is not enough.”

Anyone on Twitter may interact with any other user. Those who have replied to the Pope range from the devout, the appreciative and the inquisitive to the flippant, irreverent and even obscene.

The Pope’s followers are numerous indeed. His English-language account has over 1.4 million subscribers, his Spanish-language account has 575,000 and his Italian-language account has 265,000.

His tweets also go out in French, German, Polish, Portuguese and Arabic. His Arabic-language account is the least popular but still has a respectable 18,000 followers.

By comparison, President Barack Obama has acquired 25 million followers in almost five years. The Dalai Lama has about six million followers on Twitter…

The Pope’s Twitter following quickly surpassed Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, who has 72,000 followers.

Claire Diaz Ortiz, Manager of Social Innovation at Twitter, said the company is “thrilled” any time a leader joins their network to connect with his or her followers.

“For the Pope, the decision will be a way for him to better connect his flock of 1.2 billion. That many of those interactions can now take place on Twitter is an inspiring fact for believers everywhere,” she told CNA Jan. 11.

She said that the company has seen a wide range of spiritual leaders form large followings on Twitter.

“Many religious leaders have embraced Twitter to minister to their community, listen to their concerns and share meaningful content,” she said.

Diaz said the Pope’s Twitter debut showed an “incredible emphasis” on internationalization…

Fr. Padrini, who has developed and implemented pontifical council communications initiatives like the website and the iPhone app iBreviary, said that he thinks the Pope’s success on Twitter is “major.”

“It has really warmed my heart. It’s a beautiful thing. But I didn’t have any doubt in my mind that it would be successful,” he said.

Judging from what he has read and heard in informal conversations, he thinks the Pontifical Council for Social Communications must be “very happy” that Pope Benedict’s communications are “more widespread than ever thanks to social media.”

The priest was optimistic about Twitter as a medium, even though little can be said in a single tweet.

“One hundred and forty characters are few but the number of years of Jesus on earth were also few,” he said. “The important thing is to be present and to do so with quality.”

Fr. Padrini added that the Pope has helped inspire others on the internet.

“I feel that because of the Pope’s presence online, all of the work of all of us who work in evangelization online is also valued.”



‘In the Traditional Anglican Communion, You Are Also On Your Own’

So opts a rather despondent sounding Fr Ed Bakker:

… We often ask ourselves why we dont make a real in road with Traditional Anglicanism or Anglo Catholism, dont we ? And it clicked. I was on the vestry of this church, I was there every Sunday serving at the altar for nine years, but lived an hour’s drive away.

During that time, no one  from Church ever rang me at home in Ringwood, Father Robarts never ever came out to see us , also when my wife had a chronic illness. It took me nine years to organize a servers get to gether in the city, yet we as servers see each other sunday after sunday. I give to God and his Church, but when I need people and help , it is not there. Then I was re-trenched from the Bank at 58 and asked Fr if he knew anyone influential in the congregation who could help with some work … and there were a few people there, all he could do  is look above , indicating that God was the only influential person there. You see this is why I get so bitterly disappointed. In the Traditional Anglican Communion , you are also on your own, no collegues to support you , no nothing. A rude and lying Archbishop , who is thank God now almost disappeared from the scene.

Moving to another affiliation, much and much of the sameness, a Bishop who rings you once a year and spends five minutes talking to you.

Having said all, I still strong believe that I have been called to be a Priest , I guess in a very difficult time , but I keep on praying that the door somewhere may be opened.

So many Clergy on the blogs are so good in theory , they are so good with words , but when it comes to compassion and action, is is not to be found. Fathers Robarts, Mitchell all collegues of mine, they leave you in the learch , you never hear from them.

It would be wonderful if all of us in this forthcoming season of Advent could be realled stirred up and jump into action….

Well this certainly is not my experience of how things are… But then again, I’m not Down-Under (although I must add that I have some fantastic interactions with some really good TAC people in Oz, and that, even though I’m some 10 500 km away). One other thing, if I may be so bold as to suggest, Fr Bakker, is that you also look within. We cannot always change other people, the things they do and / or the things that they say. The only thing that we can, in reality, change is ourselves, our attitudes, and the outlook we have on life. As Victor Frankl once pointed out:

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.

Life, and more especially that of the Priest, is just so full of opportunities to make a difference in and to the lives of others. And these are the things that eventually give rise to major changes, differences and results. So get on with the work of the Gospel. Never should we allow for the waste of our precious time by criticising, complaining or even trying to get others to change. Just go and make the difference.

Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

– St Matt 28:20

UPDATE:  Also related, Fr Anthony Chadwick speaks, today, on spiritual loneliness.


Are you on Twitter Yet?

Perhaps you should be? Wise are Church leaders who embrace social media and use it for the good of the Gospel. I once found myself laughing out aloud when I read a certain, err… shall we use that word and say, Church leader (?) in a letter to the people openly condemning blogs and the like. He huffed and puffed – and this while other Church leaders (like the Pope for example) actively encourage their priests to blog (and use other forms of communication and social media) – and all I could think at the time was: Wake up! No wonder his ministry is in disarray…

Anyway, the news I want to share in this post, speaking of the Pope, is that I see he will soon be opening a personal Twitter account. That’s according to Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi:

Pope Benedict XVI will join the Twitter-sphere, tweeting from a personal account along with the world’s celebrities, leaders and ordinary folk.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi made the announcement Thursday, saying details about Benedict’s handle and other information will come when the Vatican officially launches the account, perhaps before the end of the year.

The 85-year-old Benedict sent his first tweet from a Vatican account last year when he launched the Vatican’s news information portal, aimed at the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics. The new Twitter account will be his own, though it’s doubtful Benedict himself will wrestle down his encyclicals, apostolic exhortations and other papal pronouncements into 140-character bites…


So, Have You Offended Anyone Yet?

Culture Watch

Bill Muehlenberg’s commentary on issues of the day…

OK, today’s question is this: have you managed to offend someone lately? And if not, why not? No, I am not being a smart-aleck here. These are actually legitimate questions. You see, here is a truism you can bank on: if you proclaim truth in the public arena, you will cause offence. It is that simple.

And if you publicly speak Christian truth in today’s culture, you are guaranteed to offend someone. Indeed, how can you not offend someone? If you stand up and make any Christian truth claim today you will end up offending all sorts of people. Let me make it plain for you:

-If you say marriage should only be between a man and a woman, you will offend homosexuals and their supporters. -If you say killing unborn babies is wrong, you will offend those who are pro-abortion. -If you say harmful drugs should remain illicit, you will offend the pro-drug legalisation crowd. -If you say that God exists, you will offend all sorts of angry atheists. -If you say Jesus is the only way to God, you will offend all sorts of non-Christians – and even some wimpy Christians. -If you say we are all sinners who deserve eternal punishment, you will offend those who don’t believe this way. -If you say the Bible is God’s full written revelation to mankind, you will offend those from other religions or no religion. -If you say there is such a thing as absolute truth, you will offend the relativists.

The list goes on and on. It is impossible not to offend some people if you take a stand for biblical truth and morality in the public square. And there is nothing new about this. It has always been the case. Whenever God’s people have stood up and proclaimed God’s truth, offence has been taken – big time.

In both Testaments we see over and over again how God’s spokesmen were hated, rejected and opposed by others. You see, they took offence at the message being proclaimed. Let me offer just one Old Testament passage here: “To whom can I speak and give warning? Who will listen to me? Their ears are closed so they cannot hear. The word of the Lord is offensive to them, they find no pleasure in it” (Jeremiah 6:10).

Anyone not in loving submission to God will of course find his word to be offensive. They will hate it and reject it, and those who proclaim it. It has always been that way. And things are no different in New Testament times. One simply cannot read the Gospels and notice how often Jesus caused offence.

Everywhere he went he got people angry, he offended people, he divided people, and he caused an uproar. Yet today’s evanjellyfish think that all of this is taboo – we must not offend anyone or do or say anything to put people offside. We must just smile a lot and never say anything which might be deemed offensive, intolerant, judgmental or controversial.

Sorry, these guys do not have a clue. They obviously have never read what actually happened when Jesus walked the earth. Let me cite just one passage. Many dozens of others could do, but get a load of this one (as found in John 6:60-66):

“On hearing it, many of his disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’ Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “’Does this offend you? Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you – they are full of the Spirit and life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.’ For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, ‘This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.’ From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”

Did you get that? Jesus offended people. He divided people. He caused many to turn away from him. And yet he was the most loving, gracious, meek and humble man to walk the planet. If such a person could not help but offend many, then how in the world do we think that we can avoid causing offence?

Of course the gospel message is deeply offensive. All those who live for self and sin will be offended by the gospel. That is natural. For example Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 that the gospel message gives offence. As he writes in v 23: “but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block [or offence] to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles”.

Given all this, it makes perfect sense to hear John writing these words: “Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you” (1 John 3:13). Of course it will hate us – how can it do otherwise? To vainly imagine we can live a genuine Christian life and yet never offend anyone or get anyone bent out of shape is a pipedream. It just ain’t gonna happen.

Now, to say all this must not be misconstrued. Am I saying we should go around deliberately seeking to offend people? No. Am I saying we should delight in picking fights and getting people upset? No. Am I saying it is a good thing to be ornery, cantankerous and belligerent? No.

But we are to contend for the gospel, without seeking to be contentious. We are to fight for the faith, without seeking to be pugilistic. We are to argue our case, without seeking to be argumentative. But remember how the most graceful and loving man to ever live fared as he sought to proclaim truth. People hated him for it, and they eventually crucified him.

So if Jesus received such a response, why do we think we are going to get off without any opposition or enmity? As J. Gresham Machen wrote way back in 1923, ‎”Few desires on the part of religious teachers have been more harmfully exaggerated than the desire to ‘avoid giving offense’” (Christianity and Liberalism). Indeed, all the great preachers have always known this:

-“It is a poor sermon that gives no offense; that neither makes the hearer displeased with himself nor with the preacher.” George Whitefield

-“A sermon often does a man most good when it makes him most angry. Those people who walk down the aisles and say, ‘I will never hear that man again,’ very often have an arrow rankling in their breast.” C.H. Spurgeon

-“You can really test what is being preached by one particular criterion, and it is this: the gospel of Jesus Christ is always offensive to the natural man. . . . If you find the natural, unregenerate man praising either the preacher or his message then, I say, you had better examine that preaching and that preacher very carefully.” Martyn Lloyd-Jones

-“Why in God’s name do you expect to be accepted everywhere? How is it the world couldn’t get on with the holiest man that ever lived, and it can get on with you and me?” Leonard Ravenhill

-“The desire to please may be commendable enough under certain circumstances, but when pleasing men means displeasing God it is an unqualified evil and should have no place in the Christian’s heart. To be right with God has often meant to be in trouble with men.” A.W. Tozer

Amen and amen. So I ask you again: Have you offended anyone lately?




Urbanisation and the Catholic Archdiocese of Cape Town

Some population dynamics in Cape Town (where I stay) via The Southern Cross.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Cape Town occupies an area of 30 842 square kms, but almost 90% of the population in this area live in the Cape Metropolitan Area (CMA), 2 159 square kms, or 7% of the geographic area. There is much diversity in population density. The average population density in the diocese is 1 460 people per square km, rising to 7 000/sq. km in townships and even to over 10 000/sq. km in the informal settlements. 

Of the CMA population of 2.9 million in 2001, 1.39m (48%) were people of colour, 0.9m blacks (31%), 0.54m whites (19%) and 0.06m Asian (1%) (SA national census figures). Population growth is high, because there is steady immigration, especially from the Eastern Cape, which is very poor.

The side of Cape Town the tourists know. Look behind it for different realities. (Photo: Günther Simmermacher)

Cape Town is experiencing the full effects of urbanization, a universal phenomenon which has gained momentum in Africa and South America, where the bulk of the population still live in the rural areas. Before the Industrial Revolution inEurope, it took 8 out of 10 people to produce enough food for society, now it tales less than 2. Small farmers cannot compete with the large commercial farms and tend to sell up or just leave and go to the cities. Even if a person ends up in a shack in the CMA, if they can get a job for 2 or 3 days a week, they are better off.

The CMA, part of theWestern Cape Province, is far more attractive in terms of a richer economy, better schools, better hospitals, more infrastructure, more jobs, and so on. Hence the huge inflow, especially from blacks from the Eastern Cape, which together with people of colour also coming in from the country areas, and whites from Gauteng, has now put unbearable strains on the Western Province, especially the CMA, in terms of competition for jobs, housing, schooling and general utilities. This is mirrored in many other African cities and South American cities.Lima, inPeru, for example, has people flowing into the city, there are land invasions, mini-bus taxis, serious unemployment, gangs, drug problems…sounds familiar? It is economic forces that have caused huge strains on all cities.

In the once fairestCape, however the situation is aggravated by political factors. In 2001 the Catholic population by the old population definitions was as follows: black 30 000 (2012 40 000), coloured 114 000 (now 150 000), white 50 000 (now 60 000), Asian 1 233 (now 1 635). Thus the 2012 Catholic population, in the Archdiocese, is now about 250 000 (195 200 in2001) and about 45 000 actually attend Mass on Sundays.

It seems that under apartheid, the people of colour were taught to be wary of blacks, and feel that they were in the Cape first, so that they should be in the front of the queue in terms of housing, jobs, schools, general amenities. People who fall into the Western category, tend to favour the DA political party, and the blacks the ANC, so there is further cause for tensions. In Grabouw, outside of the CMA, where there has also been a large influx from the Eastern Cape, the newer school, attended mainly by blacks, became over-crowded and this led to civil unrest and protests.

It is important to realize that the unemployment, crowded conditions, competition for scarce necessities, is primarily a problem of economics and the current recession. But there are political and historic complications in theCape, as we can see. It is maintained by some that the ANC is encouraging blacks to migrate to the Western Cape, with the promises of houses. This may be the case, but in my opinion the main reason for migration is financial/economic. Many of the blacks set up permanent residence in the CMA (and in outlying areas such as Grabouw), and the evidence is that the children of the migrants prefer to stay in the city. The persistent delivery protests are evidence of cities taking strain, of people struggling in an economic system which must seem to be quite inequitable towards those trying to obtain the basic necessities of life.

There is a need in the Archdiocese for the former groupings to do their best to live in harmony, to share, to cooperate, to use the graces of the Eucharist in terms of which we can live in Christian unity. There is, it seems, to be too little mixing at Archdiocesan functions, too much separation, and too many of the old tensions, to a large extent, a legacy of the past. This is part of our reality, and we need to think of means of fostering genuine unity and a healthy appreciation of our differences as well as our commonality, especially as children of our Father, who cares for all. For example, the Eastern Deanery held a reconciliation service a few years ago, in which parishioners from other parishes came for the first time to a black township, namely Gugulethu.

I am not convinced that the newer generations have lost entirely the biases learned by the older generation, and there is some evidence that parents are handing down negative attitudes to their children. When we think of the very diverse personalities of the first Apostles, it seems clear that the constant presence of Jesus enabled them to live in harmony. We, hopefully, can do the same.



Cardinal Donald Wuerl Starts Blogging

At Seek First the Kingdom:

While I have enjoyed for many years writing articles and even doing a weekly television program, this is my first venture into the world of blogs.

What I would like to do in this blog is to talk about our Catholic faith, what it teaches, why it is so important, certainly to me, and why, I hope, it would be important to you.  My plan is to take some aspect of the teaching of the Catholic Church and comment briefly on it in the hope that there might be readers who would find this helpful or at least engaging.  For example, as we enter the Lenten season, I would like to share with you in the future some thoughts on what this time of penance and spiritual renewal means.

The title for the blog, “Seek First the Kingdom,” comes from the challenge of Jesus to his disciples that in the midst of all the things that make up our daily life we would keep our hearts clearly focused on something that is not as visible as the creation around us, but is every bit as real – the presence of God in our lives.  This presence we call the kingdom of God and it finds its expression in the things that we say and do…

Continue reading his blog here.

Most of you will recall that His Eminence Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington, was appointed to oversee the implementation of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus in the United States.

So a warm welcome to the world of blogging, Your Eminence.