VATICAN CITY (CNS) — While @Pontifex has fallen silent during the interregnum, a handful of social media-savvy cardinals are still tweeting while they can before a different kind of “ex-communication” sets in.
From the moment cardinal-electors begin the conclave, they will be cut off from all forms of communication with the outside world until a new pope is elected, which means no newspapers, interviews, email, cell phones, not even a tiny tweet.
Cardinals Gianfranco Ravasi, @CardRavasi, and Angelo Scola, @angeloscola, however, have already retreated from retweeting. Cardinal Scola actually de-activated his account Feb. 28 for the interregnum while Cardinal Ravasi bade his many followers goodbye the same day, the day the “sede vacante” began.
“Thanks to all my followers for sharing this journey. I’ll take my leave from you now for a few days. … In friendship,” Cardinal Ravasi, the former president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, tweeted with a picture of him at his desk.
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, @CardinalDolan, has been posting links to some of the interviews he has been doing, such as with NBC News’ Today show and CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. He also invited people to begin their daily prayers the same way he has while he’s been in Rome: “‘Lord, it is good to be here with you.’ Every morning I open my prayer with those words uttered by St. Peter. I invite you to do the same.”
Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, @CardinalSean, has been posting what he has been doing in Rome in the run-up to the conclave and shared what he told retired Pope Benedict XVI when he met with him Feb. 28: “Today I shared w/Pope Benedict a Bavarian greeting & also that the people of Boston thanked him for his ministry & are praying for him.”
Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, D.C., @Cardinal_Wuerl, tweeted blow-by-blow coverage of the pope’s transfer to Castel Gandolfo Feb. 28 and ended his tweets the same night with “The papacy of Benedict XVI has ended. The chair of Peter is vacant. Thank you, Holy Father, for your faithful service. #ThanksPontifex.”
Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, @CardinalMahony, retired archbishop of Los Angeles, has been providing on-the-ground insights such as “When I greeted the pope I asked for his prayers for all of the people in the greater Los Angeles area. He grasped my hand and said ‘Yes!'”
He also been tweeting that the priority of the general congregations is “getting to know all of our brother cardinals more deeply,” and he asked people for their daily prayers as the cardinals begin their journey toward the conclave.
Cardinal Mahony also said he hoped a new pope would be elected soon and have his inauguration Mass “on March 19, feast of St. Joseph, patron of the universal church; also my 38th ann. as a bishop.”
South African Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of Durban, @CardinalNapier, has been busy tweeting, in part “to make up for silence during conclave.”
He has been calling for and responding to prayers of support and, before arriving in Rome, tweeted that he was spending “a lot of time in prayer & reflection; checking cardinals’ bios on Google; studying rules for electing pope & discussions.”
In response to “May All Be Happy,” who told the cardinal to elect him pope, the cardinal replied, “The election of pope is building church on Jesus Christ, no one else. Church is a spiritual reality, not a secular institution.”
He actively replies to his followers’ questions and comments and told Catholic News Service that getting on Twitter “was the best decision I made.”
He said at first he was “very, very skeptical and very hesitant” about this “new-fangled” platform. However, he said it’s “amazing” to be able to condense so much meaning in so few words.
“Those 140 characters sound so little and yet you can communicate quite successfully,” he said.
“But for me the greatest virtue has been in response to the call to Rome for the conclave,” he said, because so many people have been tweeting him their thoughts and prayers.
“I’d imagine that the one thing the (new) pope would like to get would be the constant interaction from ordinary people with what he’s doing and how they’re doing and so on. It takes time, unfortunately, to go through all (the news feed) every morning, but it’s well worth it in the end.”
Brazilian Cardinal Odilo Scherer of Sao Paulo, @DomOdiloScherer, also actively engages in conversations with his followers, but stopped posting and answering questions Feb. 26. His last reply was clarifying a question about not using the pope’s name in the eucharistic prayer during a “sede vacante.”
Colombian Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota, @cardenalruben, was still been posting YouTube videos of his Sunday reflections in early March. Most recently, he gave “thanks to God for the pontificate of Benedict XVI” and asked that “the Holy Spirit illuminates the conclave.”
Spanish Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach of Barcelona, @sistachcardenal, has been tweeting often about the “sede vacante” and the need for prayers has they prepare to elect a new successor of Peter.