PH clergymen told: Thou shall tweet, but only if comfortable with it
While recognizing social media as a great communication tool for the Catholic Church, members of the clergy need not establish a digital presence if they don’t feel comfortable about it, according to one of the managers of Pope Francis’ Twitter account.
Monsignor Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, explained that while the Pope himself may be active online, it was not Vatican’s intention to oblige bishops around the world to also become social media enthusiasts.
Tighe, who is part of the team that manages the Pope’s Twitter account @Pontifex, is in Manila for the second Catholic Social Media Summit, which aims to promote online evangelization or the use of the Internet and social media to preach the Gospel.
In an article posted on the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) website, Tighe said priests and bishops may be feeling some pressure to follow the Pope’s lead.
“Nobody should be on Twitter or Facebook unless they feel comfortable with it. Besides, it is not our campaign to get more bishops and priests on Twitter,” he said.
Among local Catholic Church leaders active on Twitter are Caritas Manila executive director Fr. Anton Pascual, Manila Archbishop Luis Cardinal Tagle and the incoming CBCP president, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas.
Bishops and priests not as inclined to be in the so-called Twitterverse may instead assign a person or team to handle the social media engagements of their parish or diocese, Tighe said.
“If I were a bishop in the diocese, I don’t think it’s about me being present on Facebook or having a Twitter account, but it is more of ensuring that within my diocese, there will be people who are going to be present on social media interacting, following conversations, asking or answering questions, and allowing people to ask them the hard questions. Then we will have a church that reflects our Church, that is not centralized to the bishops but is a whole community of believers,” he stressed.
Tighe said these diocesan social media groups would be vital in the overall interaction of the Church online, especially with respect to the Pope’s tweets.
A papal message gets retweeted an average of 20,000 times, he noted.
“When the Pope tweets, it gets a huge amount of reactions. The Pope can’t interactively engage, but what we would like to do is to encourage the believer, who doesn’t need a sanction from anyone, to interact with that, so that the Church is interactive in social media,” he added.
“Some people think that Twitter is a game, a toy that will soon pass away. It may pass away but the Pope said digital communication is here to stay. It is changing our world. Either we learn or be left behind,” he added.