Breaking News About Pope’s Resignation Takes Us All by Surprise

by Sr. Susan Wolf, SND on February 12, 2013

in Catholic, Pope Benedict XVI, social media, Year of Faith

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When I heard  “Breaking News: Pope Benedict is resigning effective February 28,” I was stunned as was most of the world.  The Pope made his announcement to a gathering of Vatican Cardinals in Rome on February 11 and it was confirmed by the Vatican Press Office. Because of the time of the announcement, morning newspapers in the U.S. did not have the story, but they quickly posted brief online reports and used their social media networks to inform their readers/followers. TV and radio got the announcement out quickly and their Rome correspondents were putting together stories. But the buzz was on Facebook and Twitter. Immediately, the Pope’s detractors were cheering and his admirers were reflecting on his contributions and legacy. News outlets were tweeting the story as they learned it.

The traditional news media (print and broadcast) will be catching up quickly as they put together reports on the history of this papacy and look forward to the first voluntary papal retirement since 1415 and the Conclave that will elect his successor. Already “short lists” and “long shots” are being mentioned. They will be delving into where he will live in his retirement, what will and can he do, what will he wear, what will we call him?

The immediacy and the democracy of social media were evident in this story. The moment it was announced to the public, it was all over the Internet and social media. Anyone who wanted to make a public comment could do so. This will continue as not only the more than one billion Catholics worldwide, but people of all faiths, denominations, and persuasions watch as the Church selects the next pope. Broadcasters, editors, and reporters as well as bloggers and online commentators will have their say.

Catholic news media, bishops and cardinals, theologians and all believers who already have online platforms (websites, blogs, Facebook pages, and Twitter accounts) can be part of the online conversations which have already begun. It is important that believers be online to share our faith and confidence in God. We know that there will be some, perhaps many, people who will misrepresent the meaning of this moment and reduce it to a polarizing political event. They cannot and should not be the only voices heard.

This is the Year of Faith.  This time of transition in the Catholic Church is another opportunity to give witness to power of faith, hope and love to unite all people in Christ offline and online.

What are your thoughts?

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

S. Angela Ann February 12, 2013 at 6:29 am

This morning in prayer I pondered: “Perhaps amid all the negative news whirling in the wind for so many years, the Holy Spirit, embraces us with a new sense of hope and promise. The topic of conversation is one of wonder, mystery but also hope and promise!” Yet, what a responsibility the next Pope will have. I think that Pope Benedict XVI has opened the door for a new way of thinking about the administration of the Church in the immediate future. What do you think?

Dave Pipitone February 12, 2013 at 9:38 am

There’s no doubt about it, the use of social media and the Internet disbursed the news and engaged conversations so quickly. It’s a marvelous resource to use wisely.

Marc Cardaronella February 12, 2013 at 10:35 am

“It is important that believers be online to share our faith and confidence in God. We know that there will be some, perhaps many, people who will misrepresent the meaning of this moment and reduce it to a polarizing political event. They cannot and should not be the only voices heard.”

This is such an important point and I think for me one of the primary reasons Catholics should be involved in social media and producing content on the internet. People are having conversations about the Church whether Catholics are there or not…but they get it wrong. We have to be the ones to tell our own story from the right point of view.

Chris Nunez, M.A. Theology February 12, 2013 at 12:24 pm

I don’t think that I saw anything but thoughtful and respectful comments coming across my FB pages. Even those who’ve had to contend with dialogue with Cardinal Ratzinger made thoughtful comments about Pope Benedict’s resignation.

Sr. Susan Wolf, SND February 12, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Thanks for your comments all.

Chris, most likely the people who show up on your FB timeline are friends/acquaintances of yours who share your values. They are thoughtful and respectful. Unfortunately, that is not the case for everyone on social media. I have seen some less than respectful comments on Twitter already.

Therese Boucher February 13, 2013 at 2:42 pm

With the retirement of Pope Benedict, Lent will truly be a time of purification, intense media scrutiny and also an evangelistic opportunity. Let’s pray for all those who are curious about the Church. May our Lord and Savior touch them, igniting their religious imaginations with the peace of His Holy Spirit. May he send each wondering person, someone willing to share their faith as God intervenes in human history, once again.

Sr. Susan Wolf, SND February 15, 2013 at 7:00 am

Therese,
Thank you for reminding us what a great opportunity for evangelization and catechesis this historic moment is.

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