It looks like we have the newest papal interregnum ritual: the Sede Vacante @Pontifex Twitter account.
We have the dismissal of the Swiss Guards, the sealing off of the Papal Apartments. The liturgies. The tears. And the Sede Vacante Twitter account.
I love Pope Benedict, and I have been a Ratzinger Fan Club member for a while. I consider him a visionary theologian, especially for his capacity for mining the richness of Scripture to cast new wonder on our tradition. He was once dubbed “God’s Rottweiler” only to be usurped by “German Shepherd.” But the Twitter account, that was perhaps one of the biggest surprises.
Months prior to his resignation, a resignation already being discerned, he committed himself to a papal Twitter account. He did not choose @PopeBenedictXVI as his handle. By creating the Papal Twitter @Pontifex account, he was committing his papal successor to social media, and even more broadly, he was committing all subsequent heirs to the Petrine ministry. By doing that, Pope Benedict was saying that the next Pope ought to engage in the New Evangelization in social media.
Pope Benedict exhorted the People of God to evangelize the Digital Continent and sanctify cyberspace. This seemed quite out of character for a man who prefers theological depth, nuance, and substance over soundbites and messages of 140 characters or less. Of course that is just a sign of the work of the Spirit, taking us out of character, taking us beyond our imagination, above our paygrade, to do God’s work.
So what does that mean for us?
Recently, a friend in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee was commenting on how good it would be for the American Church if Cardinal Dolan were elected. She was rooting for a hometown hero. Her daughter cut in, “Cardinal Dolan can’t do it alone! He needs our help!”
Likewise, whoever the cardinals discern to elect to the Chair of Peter will take on the responsibility of @Pontifex. However, the entirety of this Mission to proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth, across the span of the world wide web, is also entrusted to us.
So now, the Chair is empty. So now, the Twitter feed is tweetless. Yet we still tweet, blog, update, proclaim, and sanctify in the Name of Christ.
Copyright © 2013, Mark Menegatti
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