The recent news that Pope Francis is the “most influential world leader on Twitter” is a statistic that, 10 years ago, wouldn’t have made any sense. Today, however, it’s a sign that the Church — starting at the very top — is a major player in the world of social media. The pontiff, tweeting under the handle @Pontifex, reportedly receives 11,116 retweets for every tweet he sends on his Spanish account and an average of 8,219 retweets on his English account, according to a study conducted by Burson-Marsteller, a global communications firm. Pope Francis also is the second most followed world leader behind President Obama, with more than 7 million followers on nine different accounts, the same study says.
Pope Francis is building on the foundation of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who launched @Pontifex last December but whose Twitter presence was short-lived due to his resignation two months later. Since then, Pope Francis has embraced the medium, taking an approach that has been one of accessibility and engagement in an ever-secular world.
And today’s world calls for a modern-day approach to spreading the Faith — what Blessed Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict promoted as the “New Evangelization.” The Gospel message hasn’t changed in the last 2,000 years, but the presentation should. To that end, many Church leaders — starting with popes themselves — realize that social media can be used as a tool to unite people around the world and is a chance to bring the message of the Gospel to millions of Catholics.
Pope Francis, embracing his role as @Pontifex, reminds us we must participate in these digital conversations.