PORTLAND — The leader of Maine’s Roman Catholic Church has a new way to reach out to his flock.

Bishop Robert P. Deeley has officially joined Twitter: @BishopDeeley.

The Diocese of Portland already has Facebook and Twitter pages, as well as a website: www.portlanddiocese.org. Now Deeley is following the lead of Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, both of whom send out tweets – or have staff members who tweet for them. Tweets are short messages, sometimes with photos, that are sent instantly to anyone who registers as a follower. Pope Francis has over 4 million followers on Twitter and has encouraged church leaders around the world to engage with online audiences, calling the new digital opportunities to connect with people “a gift from God.”

According to an announcement from the Diocese, “the bishop’s tweets will include reflections on prayer and scripture; tales, pictures and videos from his travels around Maine; quotes from his homilies; and responses to questions from followers.”

“Joining Twitter, contributing to our Facebook page, and participating on other online platforms gives me the opportunity to share the Good News with people who visit the digital environment as part of their daily life,” Bishop Deeley said in the written release. “Social networks allow leaders in the Church to interact with Catholics and explain our faith and experiences to new audiences. This will hopefully promote a more personal and active dialogue with the people in Maine.”

Bishop Deeley began tweeting with an announcement that it is “great to be aboard,” and has tweeted about last weekend’s Blue Mass in Lewiston, the importance of Maine Catholic Schools, and the mission of Catholic Charities Maine.

The announcement from the diocese quotes Pope Francis and Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, the archbishop of New York, about the benefits of social media.

“The Internet offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity,” Pope Francis said in the release. “This is something truly good, a gift from God. It is not enough to be passersby on the digital highways, simply ‘connected’; connections need to grow into true encounters.”

Dolan said he believes that social media can also assist in bringing lapsed Catholics back.

“Some people in the church have thought social communication is bad and evil, but these things can be used in a beautiful way to bring more people to Jesus. We have to refresh and rekindle that faith,” Dolan said in the release.

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