The Pope’s First Tweet and the End of the World
In case you’re on tenterhooks, you can keep abreast of Doomsday live at the Guardian blog.
As for me, I’ve lost count of the number of predicted apocalypses in recent times. Earlier this year, 21 May was announced (then promptly retracted) by the Californian ‘Christian preacher’, Harold Camping. But believing in nonsense normally ends in disappointment. When that date passed without doom, some people were quick to console Mr. Camping:
Of course, Mr. Camping can’t have read his Bible very carefully. For Our Lord clearly states that we cannot predict his Second Coming: ‘Watch, therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of Man cometh.’ (Mt. 25:13) Perhaps we will one day make reasonable predictions when the world will end, not from religious posturing but from scientific observation – of the Sun’s expansion, of wayward asteroids, or whatever. But no such threat is even remotely plausible at the moment and should not trouble our sleep in the slightest.
Far more important is the fact that the Second Coming could happen any minute now, without any warnings or predictions whatsoever. So, although apocalypse is the theme of the readings at Mass at the end of the liturgical year (i.e. just before Advent), it remains relevant now, for Advent is the period par excellence of watching and waiting.
Of course, Advent is not explicitly a preparation for apocalypse, but for Christmas; and it would be foolish to conflate these two! More importantly, we have to reject ‘secular’ understandings of apocalypse, by which people mean the simple destruction of the world. For Christians, ‘apocalypse’ – literally the unveiling, or revelation – is God’s definitive act of re-making the cosmos. So, the end of the world is not destruction, but re-creation: ‘a new heaven and a new earth’ (Rev. 21:1).
It’s been a good month for earth-shattering claims. A great storm of anticipation arose when it was announced that the Pope, with brand-new Twitter accounts in eight languages, would send his first ever tweet on 12 December (that one in June 2011 doesn’t count because it wasn’t from his personal account…).
So, without a single tweet, the Holy Father (@pontifex) amassed over a million followers – at least when you add up his accounts in all languages – while not ‘following’ anyone but his own accounts in return. I took this snapshot a little earlier, but by the time his first tweet came out he had over 723,000 followers in English.
And, when it at last appeared, what did the pope’s first tweet actually say?
Dear friends, I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart.
With all the hype, the media and the Twitterati quickly pounced on it, according to the full range of rather predictable responses. And immediately, @pontifex achieved a better retweeting record than Justin Bieber.
This work of the New Evangelisation is a participation in God’s own fructifying providence. God is always doing new things, always re-creating.