Cedar Rapids Religious Community Weighs-in on Pope Twitter Account

By Jillian Petrus, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - On Monday, The Vatican revealed the new personal Twitter account for Pope Benedict sixteenth.

The holy global leader of the Catholic Church will officially join millions of people around the globe on the social media site. His first official tweet @pontifex is slated for Wednesday December 12th. Local religious leaders in eastern Iowa say a papal presence on Twitter shows a move toward faith-based teachings online. It's a move many other churches started to make several years ago.

"We live stream sermons and then also tape and post them to our Youtube channel," said Cedar Rapids Unitarian Church leader, Reverend Tom Capo.

Rev. Capo says many people in his congregation have very busy schedules. He sees a lot of dual working families with several children. Rev. Capo says ideally, he would like to see his church full on Sunday but knows that's not always realistic.

"Maybe their only day off is Sunday. It's the only time they can pay bills, get groceries, it's a struggle to get to church," said Rev. Capo.

But does all the tweeting, Facebooking and blogging take away from the message? Can the word of God really be summed up in 160 characters or less?

Pastor Craig Brown with First Lutheran Church in Cedar Rapids says that's the wrong way for faith leaders to view online media. Instead, he says to think of it as an additional connection and method for outreach.

"Not many people call the church anymore with what they need, but they'll post to anonymous followers on Facebook," Brown said, "So we need to get in on that universe if we want to minister effectively."

Brown says he's Facebooked during service sharing a quote or message from his senior pastor, and uses Facebook to follow up with members of his congregation. He says he also likes to use social media to share the role of faith in his daily life.

All the religious leaders we spoke to said they do think, if Jesus were alive today, he would have a Twitter account.

"I think He would be right there," said Deanna Gerber with Saint Pius in Cedar Rapids. "He really met people where they were at and that's what we try to do with Twitter and Facebook."

As for why the Pope is just getting a personal Twitter account now, Rev. Capo says he'd guess the Pope is just trying to reach out to a younger generation.

"They are the primary users of the Twitter accounts. He's trying to get them some grounding in spirituality and what Catholicism is because many of them may not have even grown up in a Catholic church."
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