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The Catholic Church takes the Twittersphere

IN a world increasingly focused on self and celebrity, horrifying evil and ceaseless political posturing, the Catholic Church provided a powerful jolt of contrast this week.

One of the world's oldest institutions proved more than capable of seizing and holding the world's attention when its cardinals met to elect a new pope.

The British royal family, famous for its pageantry, is not the world's best at stagecraft after all. Compared to the Catholic Church, which has more than 2,000 years of experience at reaching mass audiences, the Brits are amateurs.

The church used its moment to maximum effect.

The process that culminated in the selection of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires as the 266th pope was watched by a worldwide television audience.

The church was able to remind the world of timeless values - faith, love for one's fellow man, commitment to the sanctity of life, selflessness, humility, and service to the poor and downtrodden.

These are bedrock values often overshadowed in an increasingly secular world.

But they endure, the church reminded us. These ideals are what really matters.

That the church still has the power to send such messages- the wisdom of history in the media of the future, no less - is a wonder.

CNN Money reported that "Social media sites such as Facebook lit up, and Twitter said it peaked at 130,000 tweets per minute.

"That's nearly as much traffic as the 150,000 tweet-per-minute peak of this year's Super Bowl, and double the 70,000 tweets per minute users fired off during the Oscars telecast last month.

"In all, Twitter said there were 7 million total tweets sent Wednesday about the papacy."

Pope Francis, who chose his name to honor St. Francis of Assisi, embodies the ideals the church has championed for literally ages. His history is of humility, of rejecting privilege, of living small and riding the bus to work.

Not for him the sumptuous robes, the elevation above the cardinals, the blessing of the crowd. Instead, a simple white cassock, shoulder to shoulder with his brethren, and a humble request that people pray for him as he will pray for them.

The church faces challenges, institutional and financial. Pope Francis now bears heavy responsibilities.

But  this force of 1.2 billion members and counting can still pack a punch. In a world that often seems lost to Kardashians and Bieberism, tyrants and taxes, that's still good news.


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