The Gospel in 140 characters: Preaching to the Tweet Generation

Acknowledging that many media-savvy youths are no longer likely to observe Lent with the traditional sacrifices, Pope Benedict XVI is delivering daily Lenten messages to them, with a little help from micro-blogging service Twitter.

The Pontifical Council for Social Communications said many in the media-savvy generation no longer keep Lent in any special way in our "increasingly secular societies."

"Many of the key Gospel ideas are readily rendered in just 140 characters," said Msgr. Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

He was referring to Twitter's 140-character limit for sending a single message. Pope2You

According to the Vatican, themes from Benedict XVI's papal message for Lent are to be posted on a Twitter account (twitter.com/Pope2YouVatican) each day during Lent.

Over the coming months, it said other papal speeches and documents are likely to be tweeted in a similar way, "hoping to attract the media-savvy generation and entice them to find out more."

Tighe dispelled notions the Twitter initiative may be another technological gimmick that can dumb down the message of the Church.

He said the idea was simply to try and use Twitter to share with people the essence of the Pope’s message for Lent. The Gospel in 140 characters

"To those who say it’s dumbing down –no, this is entry level…to provoke people’s interest and to invite them then to follow the message and read the text…many of the key Gospel ideas are readily rendered in 140 characters – this is not the only way the Church speaks but it’s an avenue that is open to us and it’s pithy, succinct and it’s one I think that we’re quite good at," he said.

The Vatican also noted the pope2u site (www.pope2you.net) had phenomenal success at the time of its launch, with over five million hits in the first week or two of its operation.

When asked if the public will soon be able to get the Pope’s Angelus and other speeches on Twitter, Tighe said this may be the case.

“Yes, I think a lot of attention is being given to the idea of seeing Twitter as a channel that could allow for a more direct and immediate way of sharing the nucleus of the Pope’s thoughts on various occasions, so I don’t think it’ll be confined to Lent," he said. Mixed messages

However, a

separate article on tech site Mashable said Benedict XVI's relationship with social media has been mixed.

It noted the Vatican has launched a YouTube Channel, iPhone app and web portal during Benedict XVI’s papacy.

"(But) while he is on Twitter, and recently lit a Christmas tree using an Android tablet, the Pope also issued a statement asking social media to quieten down, in favor of listening," it said. — TJD, GMA News

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