Tweet others with love: Pope Francis on Social Media


14 May 2015

It’s been widely reported that Pope Francis never owned a mobile phone while he was the Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires. Yet, his election to the papacy was the first one to be heralded as much on Twitter as on television and in newspapers. He doesn’t tweet himself, but rather, the @Pontifex twitter account is run by the staff of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, taking small pieces of advice from his homilies and addresses.

Yet it’s his very way of proceeding that makes him such a dream on social media.

St Francis of Assisi said “Be always preaching the Gospel, and if necessary use words.” Later, St Ignatius of Loyola put a different spin by saying “Love ought manifest itself in deeds, not words.”
Either way, Pope Francis is following the leader here.

So what does the 78-year-old Pope without a mobile phone have to teach us on social media? A lot. A smile, a laugh, something different and prophetic. He makes jokes, embraces the poor, models the very behaviour of his namesake St Francis of Assisi by “kissing the leper”(so to speak.)

A few favourite moments are instructive and the book recounts them: Pope Francis meets an Italian man Vinicio Riva with a disease called neurofibromatosis, that causes painful tumours all over the body. Riva later said he “felt only love” when the Pope laid his hands on him.

A little boy in a soccer jersey seeks out Pope Francis as the Popemobile weaves around the streets of Rio de Janeiro, just so he can tell him he wants to be a priest. They have a beautiful embrace, both shedding a tear.

There is the viral youtube clip of the little boy who won’t leave the stage as Pope Francis preaches. Later, it’s discovered that the boy is an orphan. Pope Francis smiles and embraces the boy, and the little boy sits on his chair and listens attentively. shares a little about the Pope Francis phenomenon and quotes him as he speaks on social media:

“The speed with which information is communicated exceeds our capacity for reflection and judgment, and this does not make for more balanced and proper forms of expression. … We need, for example, to recover a certain sense of deliberateness and calm. This calls for time and the ability to be silent and to listen.”

“The variety of opinions being aired can be seen as helpful, but it also enables people to barricade themselves behind sources of information which only confirm their own wishes and ideas, or political and economic interests. The world of communications can help us either to expand our knowledge or to lose our bearings.” (

Pope Francis himself however doesn’t seem to need this advice. He shows by his very actions that he “gets it” and that he wants people to communicate well. It seems that the public see that too. Pope Francis since his election has been gaining up to 4,000 followers a day on accounts on Twitter in English, Spanish, Arabic, French, German, Latin, Polish and Portuguese. (

He is retweeted on average 9,000 times from his Spanish account, which makes him the most retweeted public figure in the world, beating Barack Obama who has more followers (in English) but who gets retweeted around 1,000 times.

And, it’s a simple message that can be reduced to 140 characters or less: Tweet others with love.

Beth Doherty is the editor of PrayOnline and the author of the new book Tweet others as you would wish to be tweeted. The book can be ordered from or on
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