The Pope has called on his followers to forsake online “verbal violence” for Lent, complaining that trolling has become as commonplace as saying hello. Of course, that instruction has only encouraged the trolls.
Pope Francis called on Catholics to “give up useless words, gossip, rumors, tittle-tattle and speak to God on a first name basis” in remarks on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, the 40-day repentance period in which Catholics traditionally put aside something pleasurable.
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“We live in an atmosphere polluted by too much verbal violence, too many offensive and harmful words, which are amplified by the internet,” the pontiff continued.
Today people insult each other as if they were saying ‘Good Day.’
Of course, telling trolls not to troll – even as a religious observance – has the unfortunate side effect of encouraging more trolling. And the Pope was not immune, becoming the target of those he was addressing on social media.
Mass migration and the church’s ongoing problem with pedophile priests were among the topics used to troll the Argentinian pontiff in response to his call for social media peace.
Dear Holy Father, @pontifex
We’ll give up trolling if you give up supporting homophobia & misogyny; money laundering, Vatican investments in plunderers /polluters, & keeping accessories to child sex trafficking #CatholicChurch clerical power structure. https://t.co/EhO056Gho4
— Michele Madigan Somerville (@NYpoet) February 26, 2020
— Secular Kenyan 🇰🇪 (@Secular_Kenyan) February 26, 2020
CATHOLICS TO POPE – FOR LENT, TEAR DOWN YOUR VATICAN WALL!
Pope to Catholics: For Lent, give up trolling https://t.co/db0HnDP4kT
— Chris 🇺🇸 (@Chris_1791) February 26, 2020
Others suggested that the Pope’s comments themselves constituted trolling.
Pope trolls Twitter https://t.co/xXaW3GoSkq
— Sam Ro 📈 (@SamRo) February 26, 2020
The Pope trolling us to not troll is the best troll. pic.twitter.com/PQECcVosOZ
— Seamus Hughes (@SeamusHughes) February 26, 2020
A few suspected Pope Francis had a “Pierre Delecto”-like secret account where he trolled world leaders he disdained.
I would love it if he had a secret account where he trolls people like trump
— Christine Galea (@chrisgalea) February 26, 2020
Continuing in the low-tech vein, Pope Francis also suggested his followers “disconnect from cell phones and connect to the gospel.”
The Pope has had to get used to some nasty words himself, as a conservative faction within the Church has taken issue with his divergent take on some points of dogma, including homosexuality, religious diversity, and whether priests should be permitted to marry. A group of 19 conservative priests and academics have been urging bishops to denounce the Pope as a heretic for his unorthodox statements, while a small but vocal group insists “the first Jesuit Pope” is the Antichrist.
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