Cardinals who tweet
Posted on 26 February 2013, 6:25
Late last week, one of the cardinals who will shortly be incarcerated in the Sistine Chapel to elect the next Pope, said that the new occupant of St Peter’s chair will have to be a tweeter. ‘Probably the most important aspect of my ministry, and I would project that into the ministry of the Holy Father, is bringing the gospel into the next generation,’ said Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington DC.
The trouble is, the cardinal has not himself ‘Don Wuerl’ at tweeting (forgive me father, I have punned). Cardinal Wuerl has just 21 tweets to his name, and the last time he hit the Tweet button was over a year ago. Perhaps this is his way of signalling that he’s not in the running.
I’ve been able to identify just
13 20 cardinals (out of a total college of 208) who are tweeting or have a Twitter account. Top of the list is Cardinal Timothy Dolan (age 63), Archbishop of New York, who has over 84,000 followers. His tweets are direct and upbeat and it looks like he writes them himself. ‘We’ve got a Lord who’s not so much concerned with what we’ve done in the past as with what we’re doing today – so cast out into the deep!’ he tweeted in January.
In second place (follower-wise) is Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi (age 70) with over 42,000 followers. He’s President of the Pontifical Council for Culture in the Vatican, and is currently being talked up as a possible next Pope (he was on at 14/1 with tipster Paddy Power when I last checked).
Ravasi is a frequent tweeter. He posted several times a day last week because he was leading a series of spiritual exercises at the Vatican called ‘The Face of God and the Face of the Human Person in the Prayers of the Psalms’. He tweeted extracts from the meditations, beginning with ‘1st Meditation: breathe, think, struggle, love: the verbs of prayer’.
A couple of days later he tweeted: ‘[The Christ] is an abyss of light. You need to close your eyes not to fall in (Kafka)’. His meditations are being praised for their cultural connectedness, and hopefully will become available in English.
Ravasi is especially interesting because he has two Twitter accounts, in Italian and English, with 39.7k and 2.5k followers apiece. His English account was opened in September last year and maybe it served as a forerunner for Benedict XVI’s @Pontifex account, in nine languages, which launched three months later.
Next is Cardinal Odilo Scherer (age 63), Archbishop of São Paulo, Brazil, who has tweeted more than any other cardinal (1609 tweets in 18 months). Scherer posts in Portuguese, with quotes from the Gospels, greetings and encouragements to individuals, plus pictures which look like his own smartphone snaps. ‘Good Sunday to all “followers” by twitter!’ he tweeted over the weekend.
I’ve listed the 18 cardinals below (thanks, Fr James Bradley, for the extra cardinals since I first posted this), with the most-followed at the top. Fr James has a Twitter list of all the tweeting cardinals. Their average age is 70, while the average age of the college as a whole is said to be 78. Please let me know if you discover others not on the list and I’ll add them.
Noteworthy are Cardinal Mahony, retired Archbishop of Los Angeles, who is under pressure not to attend the conclave because of his actions in the child abuse scandal; and Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna, who has opened a Twitter account but has not yet issued forth a single tweet and is not accepting followers.
It’s the safest of safe bets that a Twitter silence will descend on all these accounts when the cardinals disappear into the conclave. But it will be fascinating to see which cardinal is first to tweet once the white smoke starts pumping from the Sistine Chapel roof. Maybe the tweets will be watched as keenly as the smoke.
Follow the cardinals to find out.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan
Archbishop of New York, USA
First tweet: May 12 | Followers: 84.1k
Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi
President, Pontifical Council for Culture
First tweet: June 11 | Followers: 42.2k
Cardinal Odilo Scherer
Archbishop of Sao Paulo, Brazil
First tweet: July 11 | Followers: 24.1k
Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley
Archbishop of Boston, USA
First tweet: Oct 10 | Followers: 10.5k
Cardinal Norberto Rivera
Archbishop of Mexico
First tweet: March 11 | Followers: 4.1k
Cardinal Wilfred Fox Napier
Archbishop of Durban, South Africa
First tweet: July 11 | Followers: 3.7k
Cardinal Lluís Martínez Sistach
Archbishop of Barcelona, Spain
First tweet: March 12 | Followers: 3.0k
Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez
Archbishop of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
First tweet: Jan 12 | Followers: 2.8k
Cardinal Francisco Robles Ortega
Archbishop of Guadalajara, Mexico
First tweet: Mar 11 | Followers: 2.4k
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle
Archbishop of the Philippines
First tweet: Nov 11 | Followers: 1.6k
Cardinal Roger Mahony
Retired Archbishop of Los Angeles, USA
First tweet: Jan 13 | Followers: 1.3k
Cardinal Willem Jacobus Eijk
Archbishop of Utrecht, Netherlands
First tweet: none yet | Followers: 1.0k
Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran
President, Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue
First tweet: Feb 13 | Followers: under 0.5k
Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco
Archbishop of Genoa, Italy
First tweet: Jan 13 | Followers: under 0.5k
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone
Secretary of State, Vatican
First tweet: Feb 13 | Followers: under 0.5k
Cardinal Donald Wuerl
Archbishop of Washington DC, USA
First tweet: July 11 | Followers: under 0.5k
Cardinal Rubén Salazar Gómez
Archbishop of Bogotá, Colombia
First tweet: Dec 12 | Followers: under 0.5k
Cardinal Christoph Schönborn
Archbishop of Vienna, Austria
First tweet: none yet | Followers: under 0.5k
Photo: Cardinals at the Mass for the election of a Roman Pontiff by the Catholic Church (England and Wales)