Introduction by Taylor Bardecki, Interview by James Novello
To most, he is a kind old man that also happens to conduct the occasional mega-mass, but to Catholics, he is a humble leader that works to act in God’s likeness in every way. Who is this monolithic man?
The Pope, or Supreme Pontiff, is the leader of the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. His role holds several different duties and obligations to the people of the Church. The Pope determines traditional, meaning ceremonial and social, practices in the modern Church. These practices are the means of doing things with in the Church. A prime example of the Pope’s influence over Catholic tradition was when Pope Saint John Paul II called for mass to be performed in local vernacular rather than Latin at the Second Vatican Council. The Pope’s word is infallible, meaning that what he says is law of the Church. This infallibility stems from the first Pope, Saint Peter, being ordained by Jesus into His church. Thus his word and the word of Popes are infallible because they are seen as the word of God. The pope has the duty of determining the official Catholic stance on issues; these issues can range from the death sentence to economic fairness.
Currently, Pope Francis is at the helm of the Church and is rapidly increasing in popularity among both Catholics and non-Catholics. His popularity comes from his decisiveness to explore more social, economical, and international issues. The Pope calls for Catholics to consider how they should navigate through these issues in their faith and how they should navigate the political arena in a religious way. Additionally, the new Pope’s growing popularity is because of his willingness to reach out to Catholics and bring them into the Church, rather than rely on traditional means and old practices. One key to his success is his involvement via Twitter. The pope has over eight accounts in multiple languages putting out quotes from the Bible and messages from his Homily. This is huge news for the Vatican, and the response to their Twitter backs it up: the Pope’s various Twitter accounts have amassed millions and millions of followers. The world now has access to the highest-ranking Church official’s homily, or a take-home message of the week. This allows different demographics to have access to the Pope’s word. This easy accessibility and familiarity are some of the main reasons as to why the Pope is so popular with the youth.
To get a better idea of exactly how the Pope’s Twitter presence is maintained, we conducted an e-mail correspondence with the man behind the Tweets: Peter Falco, who happens to be the cousin of one of our very own writing staff members. We asked him about the hiring process, the Pope’s involvement with the Twitter, and the overall goal of establishing an internet presence on a website dominated by entertainment celebrities and young people.
Burning Tree Magazine: How did you find that you wanted to work for the Vatican? Is the hiring process unlike working for any other organization?
Every Catholic has a natural connection to Rome, and many who want to work for the Church, whether in their home dioceses or in Rome, come to Rome, especially for graduate studies in philosophy, theology, history, canon law, as well as more recently in Church Communications. There is a vast network of pontifical universities, and one in particular, the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, is the first and only to offer a specialization in Church Communications.
The Roman Curia is the Holy See’s VAST “administrative apparatus”. Their function is to simply help the Pope in his mission and really the Church at large. It is comprised of various congregations, councils, tribunals, commissions, secretariats, academies, committees, etc. Many members, especially the heads of such bodies, are appointed by the Pope, directly or indirectly. These are usually clerics. However, the Vatican has many lay employees. The Vatican does not post any job openings that I’m aware of (though maybe some offices advertise internships), but there is a hiring process. I would say that most people are either referred or invited to come work after distinguishing themselves in some way, meeting all these necessary job requirements, of course. But the recommendation of a bishop or priest especially is very important (or even a layperson in a management role).
BTM: How do you think this represents the role of the church in the modern age?
PF: The Church’s involvement in any media has one fundamental goal: the spread of the message of salvation. That is the raison d’être of all its involvement in media. The Church, an ancient institution, has always kept pace with the times and makes use of all the means at her disposal to spread the message of the Gospel. Of course, some modern media present new challenges and the Church sees the need to carefully discern how to effectively promote her message in such media. That is some background.
BTM: What is the overarching goal of having a social media presence?
PF: It seems pretty obvious, I guess, but really that is the only objective of the Church: evangelization. The Church has taken very seriously Jesus’ words to go out and preach the Gospel to all nations — the missionary mandate — throughout her entire history. That missionary mandate can be applied equally to the sphere of social media as well.
BTM: How involved is the Pope?
PF: Pope Benedict XVI inaugurated the papal Twitter account in 2012 shortly before he resigned, and it has continued to grow dramatically under the pontificate of Pope Francis. While the Pope does not always tweet for himself (though he sometimes does), he nevertheless approves all tweets. In fact, many are simply important points taken from his daily or weekly homilies. The tweets are translated into various languages by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. The Pope has around 8 Twitter accounts in various languages: English, Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese, Polish, Latin, German….
BTM: In what ways does the Church hope to appeal to the youth demographic?
PF: The Church, of course, does not propose a message of her own, but that of the Gospel, which she just hands down through the ages. So while she might avail herself of new methods to make that message more accessible and appealing to today’s man, it obviously does not result in any change in the message itself whatsoever. So “appeal” can never be understood as a “compromise” of her truth. The Church sees in young people a lot of hope to carry that message forward and all the qualities needed for it. One thing comes to mind: Pope Saint John Paul II started an initiative back in 1984 called World Youth Day. It’s basically a worldwide youth encounter centered on Christ that takes place every three years in some city of the world, and can count on the Pope’s presence. Some of these have been among the largest events in human history, attracting upwards of five million young people. The next is set to take place in Krakow in 2016. Just to give you a taste of what he’s telling young people, here is a link to the Pope’s address to them in Rio de Janeiro at the last WYD.