Pope Francis one-liners made for Twitter age

With his made-for-meme style, Pope Francis just seems to have entered a new digital frontier.

In homilies and speeches in the months since assuming the Seat of Saint Peter, Pope Francis has demonstrated his simple style applies not only to his dress and living accommodations –but to the words he uses to share the faith. A few recent examples:

Eternity “will not be boring.”

Long faces cannot proclaim Jesus.”

War is madness. It is the suicide of humanity.”

We are not part-time Christians.”

“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’
Even the atheists. Everyone!”

Think about a single mother who goes to church, in the parish and to the secretary she says: ‘I want my child baptized’. And then this Christian, this Christian says: ‘No, you cannot because you’re not married!’. But look, this girl who had the courage to carry her pregnancy and not to return her son to the sender, what is it? A closed door! This is not zeal! It is far from the Lord!”

If the investments in the banks fall slightly [it is] a tragedy what can be done? But if people die of hunger, if they have nothing to eat, if they have poor health, it does not matter! This is our crisis today!”

In contrast to the richly theological style of Pope Benedict, Pope Francis seems a pope made for the age of tweets. His “simple, direct language,” (as described by L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s newspaper) is making the sometimes-mystical leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics veritably meme-worthy. And that is raising eyebrows across the religious spectrum.

So what happens when religious complexity meets witty one-liners online?

Consider Pope Francis’ comments about atheists on May 22. Much of the information about Francis’ statements comes from the Vatican’s news Web site, news.va, which typically synthesizes the pope’s homilies with translated (the pope gives homilies in Italian) select quotes rather than posting the speeches in their entirety. So when the Vatican released a sermon summary that said that Jesus had redeemed “even the atheists,” many took note. Some pointed out the problem of using snippets of a speech to prove a broader point. The Rev. John Zuhlsdorf, who runs a popular blog from a conservative Catholic viewpoint, noted that “we never get what the pope actually said in its entirety,” and clarified Catholic teaching on the possibility of heaven for non-Christians. The site Reddit, which hosts a robust atheist forum, blew up with the news. Atheist bloggers, who — um, don’t believe in heaven — were nonetheless grateful for the implied message that nonbelievers who do good will be rewarded. The Vatican later clarified Francis’ statements, reminding the public of its teaching that yes, Jesus died for all but you do need to believe in order to get into heaven.

The papal quips continue.

While the online marketplace of ideas gives the Catholic Church a new stage on which to preach, the question of how to teach the faith to the masses without watering down the message is as old as religion itself. With his made-for-meme style, Pope Francis just seems to have entered a new digital frontier.


Image courtesy of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston.

Elizabeth Tenety
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  • coolnewyorker

    I am a grad school professor. I am aware that excellent teaching often does not parallel how much a teacher knows but how much he is able to get students/pupils understand what he teaches..

    Being an educator in Jesuit order, it is safe to presume the Pope knows authoritatively about what he is teaching. What sets him apart from previous popes is how he teaches.. SIMPLY. ENJOYABLY. ENGAGINGLY.even ENTERTAININGLY and most importantly, CONVINCINGLY.often with mere one-liners,

    Excellent teaching. Excellent teacher. Excellent Pope.

  • LittleFeatFan

    I’m a faithful Catholic, and I’m proud of Pope Francis. Not that he’s worried about my support. Francis “gets it,” and my church needs a leader who can interact with our world in an upbeat, succinct, genuine way. Viva Papa Paco!

  • tony55398

    Simple sayings sometimes make more sense than a more complex statement when the original statement ends with all the buts and howevers, like a contract from an insurance company.

  • GorditoMojito

    PRAYER TO THE BLESSED MOTHER- (never known to fail)

    Oh most beautiful flower of Mt. Carmel, fruitful vine, splendor of Heaven, Blessed Mother of the Son of God; Immaculate Virgin, assist me in my necessity.

    Oh Star of the Sea. Help me and show me you are my Mother. Oh Holy Mary, Mother of God, Queen of Heaven and Earth, I humbly beseech you from the bottom of my heart to succor me in my necessity.

    There is none that can withstand your power.

    Oh, Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee (3 times). Holy Mary, I place this prayer in your hands (3 times) Sweet Mother I place this cause in your hands (3 times) Thank you for mercy towards me and mine. Amen. This prayer must be said for 3 days and after 3 days your request will be granted and the prayer must be published. Thank You. CM

  • Tano1964

    In the article referred to an alleged contradiction between less direct style of Benedict and Francis simpler style, which I raises a question: what is important, and speaking style or what the Pope says Pope of the scriptures and the teachings of Jesus Christ?, which is a rich theology but one that speaks of God, His revealed truth and the healing of souls?, both the former and the current Pope, teach the same .. . is fair to say that when the style is direct, sometimes sympathetic falls … (even some in the Vatican …).

  • jimwilson81

    Paul of Tarsus was not a “semi-fiction writer” who is the main source of Christianity today. He was writing about Jesus between A.D. 45 to A.D. 63 before his death. He was writing less than 20 years after the crucifixion! There is evidence that Marks’ Gospel may have been written as early as A.D. 50. Luke was writing his Gospel and Acts of the Apostles (which he never finished seeing that ended with Paul’s imprisonment) in the 50’s and 60’s. Your error is thinking that these were written a lot later. That is not the case.