The Roman Catholic archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, has filled the pews at St. Patrickâ€™s Cathedral. He has spoken before Pope Benedict XVI and the College of Cardinals in Rome. As archbishop of Milwaukee, he once put on a Green Bay Packers â€œcheeseheadâ€ during an outdoor Mass.
But in recent weeks, the cardinal and his office prepared for an entirely different kind of address: his first Twitter message. Options were discussed. Arrangements were made. By the evening of May 8, it was settled. â€œHey everybody. Itâ€™s Timothy Cardinal Tebow,â€ @CardinalDolan posted. â€œI mean Dolan.â€
In less than two weeks on Twitter, Cardinal Dolan has made a modest mark. By Friday, he had about 8,500 followers. He writes roughly twice a day, offering religious meditations, plugs for his radio shows and occasional flares of gentle humor. Cardinal Dolan hopes the platform will help him reach new and perhaps younger audiences by extending â€œan implicit invitationâ€ to learn more about church teachings, said Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York. The cardinal might also have to contend with Twitterâ€™s widespread irreverence.
Bill McGarvey, whose consulting firm, McG Media, has advised religious groups about social media use, said that often the greatest challenge for religious institutions was understanding the â€œvery dialogic and dynamic mediumâ€ they were entering â€” a forum in which the interplay with other users can be as important as more traditional pronouncements of faith. Indeed, Cardinal Dolanâ€™s account currently follows no one. [more]