ROME: The visit of Pope Francis to Iraq this week will send a message of “consolation and hope” to those who have suffered so much in the country, according to the archbishop who revolutionized the Vatican’s communications.
Claudio Maria Celli, who was president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications from 2007 to 2016, worked closely with Pope Francis after helping convert Catholic leaders to social media to deliver their message to followers around the world.
As a result, the pope’s historic Iraq visit will be relayed through the various social media accounts, including @Pontifex, the account of Pope Francis.
“With this trip, the pope intends to reach the hearts of all Iraqis. He doesn’t want to talk just to the Christians who live in that country and who’ve suffered so much from war and persecution by Daesh,” said Celli. “He wants to bring his closeness … to the people, no matter what their faith.”
The 80-year-old Celli spoke of “hope of reconstruction for a people who have the right to rebuild peace thanks to the collaboration and respect between the religious and national identities that are present in Iraq. The pope believes very much in dialogue between religions.”
Pope Francis “will certainly bring a message of solidarity to the Christians who live in that country. He wants to be close to them as a brother and as a father, so that they feel that the universal Church shares the hardship lived by a community that has suffered too much and for too long from violence and fundamentalism,” said Celli.
“He wants to help rebuild trust in a tomorrow that must be different from the past, a better tomorrow made of peace, prosperity, love and common good for all in a country that deserves to be able to look forward.” All this is part of a “great dimension of interreligious dialogue,” said Celli.
In 2012, Celli helped Pope Benedict join Twitter as he transformed the Vatican's communications to keep up with the social media era. He also established a YouTube channel for the pope.
He once stated that Catholic media “should not become instruments of a religious or cultural fundamentalism.”
Pope Francis’s memorable tweets
With 18.8 million followers the @Pontifex twitter account belonging to Pope Francis has become a powerful tool for him to communicate with both the Catholic faithful and the wider world.
Here are some occasions when his account has been used to send messages of reassurance, hope and concern to issues related to the Middl East.
Aug. 5, 2020
The pope issues condolences and a broader message to Lebanon and its politicians after the devastating blast in Beirut Port.
Nov. 20, 2020
The pope sent a joint tweet along with the Imam of Al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb reaffirming their commitment to the Document on Human Fraternity signed a year earlier.
Feb. 3, 2019
Ahead of the first visit by a pope to the UAE, Pope Francis tweeted that he was visiting the Emirates “as a brother, in order to write a page of dialogue together.”
Feb. 12, 2021
The pope sent a powerful message to coincide withe the UN day against the use of child soldiers
Feb. 8, 2021
Pope Francis has long campaigned against human trafficking and slavery.