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Pope tells nuns to avoid social media

May 17, 2018

Mass, not memes. Catholic nuns have been told to try and avoid social media and return to a life of silence. Meanwhile the Pope is still tweeting to his millions of followers.

Catholic nuns working with computers
Image: picture-alliance/ROPI/Del Puppo

Catholic nuns have been advised to avoid using social media in new guidelines released by the Vatican this week.

The document is a reminder to the church's female monastics that they are meant to live separated from the world and in silence.

What the guidelines say

  • "Recollection and silence are of great importance for the contemplative life."
  • "Noises, news, and words" impede this.
  • "[Social media must be] used with sobriety and discretion, not only with regard to the contents but also to the quantity of information and the type of communication."
  • In some cases social media and news can be used prudently for utilitarian purposes
  • "Nuns procure necessary information on the Church and the world, not with a multiplicity of news, but knowing how to grasp the essential in the light of God, to bring it to prayer in harmony with the heart of Christ."

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The pope's biggest language communities on Twitter


Benedictine nun Catherine Wybourne shared comments on her widely-followed @Digitalnun Twitter account: "If Pope Francis is serious about using the gifts of all the Church's members, then I genuinely believe that he and all the other senior clergy must take seriously the fact that women are not second-class beings. We can be as intelligent, well-educated, fervent and disciplined as any man. To presume that we are somehow lacking in any of those qualities is deeply insulting."

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Do as I say and not as I do: Pope Francis is an avid Twitter user, with more than 1,500 tweets and 17.8 million followers of his English-language account. But the new dictate appears to forbid cloistered nuns from following his lead and encourages them to remain silent. There have been several prominent cases of nuns using social media to instigate social change in recent years and this could signal a move to stifle such speech. However some Catholic outlets interpreted the document as giving a green light to limited social media use.

Nuns with a social media habit: Nuns have increasingly being turning to social media to share their views and spread the word of their God. In April, a group of Spanish nuns made worldwide waves when they shared a post on their Facebook page defending the right of women to freely act as they wish and not be "judged, raped, intimidated, murdered or humiliated for it."

aw/msh (dpa, AP)

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