public diplomacy

Catholicism and Social Media

In a time when it seems that the Catholic Church is more prominent than ever in the news and politics of the United States, it is intriguing that there are reports about the Pope’s Twitter account. This Huffington Post article says that the Pope’s Twitter account is being used to “share Lenten messages” but also notes that is has been in use since before Ash Wednesday.

Based on the Pope’s Twitter handle “@Pope2YouVatican“, it seems the reason behind the Pope being on a Twitter is a diplomatic one.  While the name “@Pope2YouVatican” sounds rather odd, if we dissect it, “Pope2You” sounds as if they are trying to use unidirectional messages to relay the information they’d like to get across.  Based on recent research, it is clear that unidirectional message are not the only way to do diplomacy and are clearly not the best way.  In the world of social media, where responses can be instantaneous, it is important to have two-way conversations with followers instead of just pushing messages through.

The Vatican says that the messages will be posted in different languages.  This is crucial to relate to Catholics across the world.  What is most important is to have whoever is monitoring this account be able to speak the languages so they they can respond to those who retweet or direct message the Pope with useful comments. This renewed effort to pass the message on in several languages relates directly to the recent changes made to the English version of the Catholic mass.  These changes were an attempt to unite Catholics, no matter what language they speak, by making all language translations as close as possible to the Latin text and to one another.  By using this Twitter account, the Vatican is attempting unite Catholics in new technology, thus creating a network of Catholics that can be a very powerful voice for the Church.  This follows Ann Marie Slaughter and Clay Shirky’s ideas that the network will be the tool of future diplomacy.  By using new media to its advantage, the Vatican is piling up resources and preparing this network for a battle against possible controversial policies. While this is a good start, the Vatican has more work to do if it is serious about using the Pope’s Twitter as a public diplomacy tool.

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About Jeanette Gaida

I'm a recent graduate of Global Communication program at The George Washington University. In the summer of 2009, I interned for a non-profit doing bilateral cultural exchanging involving rising political leaders during undergrad and fell in love with DC and public diplomacy. During this time, I met an Egyptian girl about my age on the exchange and she said to me, "It's not the people that disagree; it's their governments that can't get along. Why should that stop the people from communicating?" Ever since that night, I have been inspired to find an answer to this question which has led me to where I am now studying and trying to practice diplomacy. I graduated from the University of Iowa in 2011 with a BA in International Studies and Anthropology which helps to explain my research interests which involve how folklore, tradition-bearers, and anthropologists can be involved in diplomacy and how to bridge the gap between members of different cultures. As we all talk about in public diplomacy, it's about getting past those "last three feet." In April 2013, I attended the International Studies Association Annual Conference with a paper entitled "Anthropologists as Foxes, New Diplomats in an Era of Cultural Diplomacy."

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