Twitter Gospel: Metro visits pope’s social media office

Monsignor Paul Tighe. Credit: Metro World News
Monsignor Paul Tighe.
Credit: Metro World News

As I walk into his office, Paul Tighe is on the phone with Apple regarding The Pope App. Yes, this is the pope’s social media office.

And Monsignor Tighe’s operation would be on par with any major news organization. In the office next to his, a team tweets, adds content to the newsportal news.va, uploads photos on Flickr, fine-tunes The Pope App (for Android and Apple devices) and monitors livestream video. “We have the Habemum Papam tweet ready to be sent out,” Miguel Chavarra, a young Spaniard tells me. Sure enough, the very same evening, as soon as a cardinal has announced the magic words that make Jorge Mario Bergogio Pope Francis, the tweet goes out.

“Today’s news model is short news and lots of images, and that’s good for the church,” explains Tighe, an Irish priest who’s been in charge of the pope’s social media (formally known as Pontificium Consilium de Communicationibus Socialibus, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications) for the past five years. “The church has always been very visual, and communications is like theater. Just think of all the people waiting to see the black and white smoke.” Indeed, as soon as the white smoke emerged, millions of people had tweeted and retweeted the news.

In fact, to the surprise of many, the Vatican — known as a socially conservative institution — embraced social media early on. “We’re making sure that all the content that comes out of the Vatican is presented in a multimedia format, and everything we put out can be shared on Twitter, Facebook and so on”, says Tighe. “The people who listen to us can bring the information to a wider audience. We’ve made mistakes while adopting social media, but we’ve learned.

“People often say, ‘How can you talk the gospel in 140 characters?’ But so much of the Bible’s teachings are in 140 characters: Think of things like ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’” Adds Thaddeus Jones, the office’s American-born coordinator: “And 140 characters can give you words of support and consolation.”

One of the earliest adopters was Pope Benedict XVI himself. After Twitter had been explained to him, he immediately decided to tweet. “He really embraced it,” recalls Tighe. “He said that new media are a blessing, and they’re about dialogue. He said, ‘If Twitter is something that allows us to communicate the good news, especially to young people, then I’m very happy to do it.’”

As soon as Tighe’s staff created the @Pontifex account, it got millions of followers. “Benedict always approved each tweet in Italian,” reveals Tighe. “Then we translated it into the other languages on his Twitter account, but sometimes it could be a bit tricky. 140 characters in Italian can be a bit longer in German!” Of PCCS’s staff of 25-30, most work on the news.va portal, while a handful work full time on social media.

Benedict’s Twitter use has led to a Twitter explosion among Catholic clergy: seminarians, priests and bishops now tweet. “When Benedict started tweeting, he was essentially saying that this is important to the church,” observes Tighe. “As a result, many bishops who had previously been reluctant started tweeting too.” These days even cardinals tweet. In fact, to make sure that tweeting cardinals didn’t reveal any secrets during the conclave, the Vatican had to install jamming signals. The @Pontifex account has been transferred to Pope Francis.

Of course, users don’t just share the news. Some use social media to criticize the pope, the Vatican and the church as well. But Tighe isn’t deterred: “These thoughts are there anyway. Jesus went into the marketplace and preached the gospel. Digital media is the new marketplace. We can’t be afraid to go there.”

Oh, and The Pope App? It already features Pope Francis’ activities (with images) and calendar and webcams showing his activities.

Where to find the Pope

Web: www.news.va

Twitter: @Pontifex (Pope); @news_va_en (Vatican)

Facebook: www.facebook.com/news.va, in different languages

iPhone, Android: The Pope App (free)

Flickr: flickr.com/photos/newsva


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

(Update) Body of missing BU grad Eric Munsell…

The dead man pulled from the water at Boston's Long Wharf Wednesday afternoon was that of missing 24-year-old Boston University alumnus Eric Munsell, Boston Police said today.

National

On newly released tape, 'Squeaky' Fromme says was…

Manson Family member Squeaky Fromme told a mental health examiner in newly released interview the "X" she carved in her forehead was meant to separate her from "the system."

Local

Mayor Marty Walsh's Reddit AMA: 5 things to…

Mayor Marty Walsh participated in a Reddit AMA - or "ask me anything" - session on Thursday and shared some of his insight and stories.

National

Electric Zoo tickets on sale Tuesday as festival…

Electric Zoo tickets go on sale Tuesday. The festival announced plans to amp up security after two attendees died last year from apparent drug overdoses.

Movies

Tribeca: Nikki Reed on going funny for a…

"Intramural" star Nikki Reed talks about being the straight person in a broad comedy, spending time in Austin and how "Thirteen" was a "miracle."

The Word

Taylor Swift has a hard time leaving the…

We're entranced by these photos of poor Taylor Swift leaving her Tribeca apartment.

Arts

'Becoming Cuba' at Huntington is a bit short…

Playwright Melinda Lopez freely lampoons the English language for its lack of passion in her latest work, “Becoming Cuba.” Ironically, the Huntington Theatre Company’s playwright-in-residence…

Movies

Interview: 'The Quiet Ones' star Sam Claflin on…

"Hunger Games" co-star Sam Claflin talks about his new horror film "The Quiet Ones," plus how technology connects him with fans.

NFL

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24…

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24 version

MLB

5 infamous pitcher ejections for cheating

Never fear Yankees fans, Michael Pineda is far from the first MLB pitcher to be thrown out of a game for cheating.

NFL

Patriot’s schedule comes up fair

Those looking for built-in excuses for the Patriots 2014-2015 season will have to look elsewhere, because their schedule came up fair. For the fourth straight…

MLB

Nava demoted, Victorino return imminent

  Red Sox outfielder Daniel Nava, who was batting a team-low .149/.240/.269, was demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket on Wednesday. "His struggles at the plate, I…

Parenting

New study: Inside the wage gap between boys…

According to a new study, there's a wage gap between boys and girls, with boys earning more allowance for less chores.

Tech

From Apple TV to Fire TV, big changes…

Apple is set to launch a new generation of it's Apple TV, which grossed over $1 billion in 2013. But competition from Amazon and Google looms.

Style

Katy Perry releases a new Claire’s collection

Katy Perry expands her empire by releasing an accessories collection at Claire's.

Style

MAC & Proenza Schouler collection unveiled

MAC Cosmetics is releasing a new collection with Proenza Schouler.