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Column Cardinal Rules - On helping the Pope to tweet

This week, the (not) Primate of All-Ireland is drafted in to help his Holiness to get to grips with Twitter. “He receives a tweet from the Dalai Lama. ‘Dude,’ it says. We just ignore it.”

EARLIER THIS WEEK I was called to the Vatican to give his Holiness advice before sending his first ever tweet. It was a momentous event, on a par with the time when St Patrick sent his first ever holiday post card (from Bundoran, if you must know).

I, of course, have huge experience on the Twitter. I was only too happy to help during the very exciting build up.


Fr Ryan and I arrive to coach his Holiness in the ways of the Twitter. It is decided that he will set up a practice account as a rehearsal for his first official tweet. Our first task is to decide on an avatar picture.

Fr Ryan suggests his Holiness use one of himself as a child. “Lots of people do it. It’s funny, and fresh; and in the right hands it can be ironic.”

His Holiness smiles. “Like zis you mean?” He shows us the famous photo of himself in his Hitler Youth days.

It is decided that there are only so many levels of irony, and so we settle on a picture of his Holiness wearing a novelty beer helmet.


We inform his Holiness that the Twitter is all about sharing the most mundane details. Duly coached he tweets about the half hour he spent that morning looking for one of his socks. Someone called @Satan666 replies sympathetically with “Been there, that’s rough.”

It is his first ever Twitter reply. His Holiness cannot contain himself and claps his hands and bounces up and down on the spot.

Later, we inform his Holiness that people like to share what they’ve eaten. With our help he Yfrogs a photo of some communion wafer. As nice as the photo is, we decide to share some more. This time he Yfrogs a sandwich with a comment. He tweets “Om” but without the “nom.” There is something distinctly Buddhist about this, and for a moment we are anxious, but we decide to leave it as an “accidental but nicely ecumenical gesture.”

Later his Holiness receives a tweet from the Dalai Lama, “Dude” it says. We just ignore it.


We advise his Holiness that to truly be part of the in crowd on the Twitter, one must be prepared to demonstrate frequent bursts of righteous outrage and align oneself with a “Twitmob.” With that in mind we prepare him an all purpose tweet for the eventuality: “I am outraged that [insert name of annoying liberal left wing ideologue here] has [insert suitably vile liberal act here] you wouldn’t find [insert name of cuddly right wing church-loving contrarian here].

Another tweet from the Dalai Lama. This time asking for a follow so that he can DM his Holiness. We ignore it.


His Holiness is on fire this morning. He tweets about getting some chilli in his eye, tweets an over the top reaction to something trivial, and overshares about something which he really didn’t need to mention (his favourite-coloured pants).

Later we introduce him to sharing pictures of LOL cats. He even makes his own with the caption “I can haz Bible?” Unfortunately his Holiness doesn’t find LOL cats funny, so the idea is dropped.

Later someone shares a link to a YouTube video of a “comedian” called Frankie Boyle. This at least allows his Holiness to discover that both Mr Frankie Boyle and LOL cats have something in common.

Another tweet from the Dalai Lama “An open heart is an open mind. Can I get a follow please?”

His Holiness blocks the Dalai Lama.


Time for his Holiness’s first official tweet in front of the world’s press. He is not sure what to tweet. Suggestions are made such as mentioning what he had for breakfast, or which season of The Wire he prefers.

Then Fr Ryan suggests apologising for recent Church scandals. He looks at us for a moment and then we all burst out laughing. Fr Ryan is such a card.

Cardinal Rules: On how to organise a social media protest>

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Cardinal Rules: On the presidential campaign trail>

(Not) Cardinal Sean Brady
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