During this Year of Faith, leaders of the Catholic Church of England and Wales are encouraging the faithful to use Twitter to spread the Word of God.
For each day of the Holy Year, beginning last October, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, along with the Bible Society, have provided daily Scripture passages via Twitter at @YoFtweets. By the time the Year of Faith ends, some 400 Scripture passages will be shared on the social network.
Since the initiative began, more than 1,000 people from around the world have become followers of @YoFtweets, including lay people, priests, religious, teachers, Catholic ministry teams, theatre groups and non-Catholic churches.
Speaking with ZENIT days before the World Day of Communications, which falls this year on May 12, Bishop Kieran Conry, chair of the bishops’ Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis for England and Wales, explained the aim of the @YoFtweets initiative.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, he explained, called the faithful to use the Year of Faith as an opportunity to revisit the four major constitutions of the Second Vatican Council. Of these, Bishop Conry said, Dei Verbum has been explored the least.
“But now in various ways people are becoming more familiar with the Scriptures,” he said, “and so we must use any way we can to increase that familiarity. Tweets are very restricted by their nature, but often just a single verse from the Scriptures can provide fruit for reflection and prayer.”
The aim of the @YoFtweets project, he explained, is to encourage people to engage in the Year of Faith. “We wanted to offer a new resource to help people to rediscover their faith”
He noted how the New Evangelization challenges the faithful to “seek new ways, new tools and methods that can be used to re-present the Catholic faith to people. Using Twitter for a catechetical purpose is, we believe, one such new way.
“It is hoped that the tweets are a catalyst for people to re-ignite a desire to grow in understanding of the Catholic faith and also to seek to deepen their relationship with Christ.”
Twitter was an ideal forum for this initiative, Bishop Conry said, because “social media is one of the fastest ways of engaging with people wherever they might be. It’s immediacy is amazing and so it seemed the natural thing to offer a resource using this tool. We observe in the Gospels that so many of Jesus’ encounters happened simply where he found himself and where others were about their business. In our time, Twitter offers every day opportunities to connect with people where they are at.”
“It is, of course, very challenging to attempt to put together a new catechetical methodology when you can only communicate 140 characters at a time,” he said.
Bishop Conry explained that the Scripture passages are not chosen at random. “The Bishops’ Conference Home Mission Desk, in partnership with Bible Society, devised a program that would offer themed quotes taken from each of the Vatican II documents, the Bible and Catechism. At the end of each week a tweet encouraging prayerful reflection is also offered so that ‘followers’ can consider the implications of what they’ve received during the week, in their own lives.
“As such we think it’s the first time that Twitter has been used in such an intentional way in service of evangelization and catechesis.
“As the Feast of Pentecost approaches, and also World Communications Day, it’s so important to consider how we can proclaim the Gospel using digital tools.”
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