And Pope Francis considers himself a "digital dinosaur" but is eager to use every means to proclaim the Word of God.
The Church and the world were delighted and amused at the images of the joyful, elderly pontiff making his way onto Twitter. Now five years have passed like lightning and the @Pontifex account has more than 40 million followers in nine languages.
Standing beside Pope Benedict for that first tweet — which read, “Dear friends, I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart” — was Archbishop Angelo Becciu, an official from the Vatican’s secretariat of state.
He spoke to Vatican Media’s Alessandro Gisotti about the significance of the popes’ presence on social media. “I remember being with Pope Benedict: he was a little clumsy pushing the buttons on the tablet. But at the same time I saw him very joyful. He was happy to be able to dialogue with netizens and to be part of the new wave of modern communications,” he said.
Archbishop Becciu said this was the best way “to reach so many people and spread the Word of God.”
Onward, Christian soldier
Pope Francis launched an Instagram account (@Franciscus) on March 19, 2016, which now has more than 5 million followers.
Archbishop Becciu said Pope Francis ironically considers himself a “digital dinosaur” but is interested all the same, requesting frequent updates.
“I think the pope is aware of being an evangelizer and missionary to the world. So for him all instruments may be used. They are tools that can help diffuse his evangelizing word.” The pope, Archbishop Becciu said, “reads the Tweets he is to publish with joy and approves them with great enthusiasm.”
When it comes to the proper use of social media, Archbishop Becciu said Pope Francis has already given several guidelines. “Most importantly, do not abuse them: Do not use them at Mass!” he said.
Archbishop Becciu said the pope has also reminded bishops and priests not to abuse social media. “But at the same time, we must have the courage and wisdom to use them well. Courage is needed because it is new and so we need to ‘throw ourselves’ into this newness. And [it requires] wisdom since every tool should be used in the proper measure,” he said.
One final piece of advice, Archbishop Becciu said, is to avoid offensive speech on social media. “We must use it as an instrument for communicating with others. Communication should help us grow in the Spirit, in culture, and in our attitudes toward other people.”