RELIGION: Pope Francis doesn’t correspond by e-mail

We know that popes have read The Tablet – Cardinal Ratzinger regularly expressed alarm at the content – but can be reasonably certain that Pope Francis doesn’t read these newsletters. One of the (many) interviews he granted to mark the tenth anniversary of his election featured this exchange with the Argentine journalist Daniel Hadad of the Infobea news outlet:

DH: How do you send emails?
PF: What do you mean?
DH: An email, how do you send an email?
PF: By hand.

The pontiff explained that all of his correspondence is drafted in longhand and handed to a secretary. He did use a typewriter in Buenos Aires – a one-line memory electric machine, bought on the cheap in Germany – but it didn’t feature in his famously light hand luggage for the 2013 conclave, and it’s been pen-and-paper ever since. Wasn’t it good enough for the epistles?

Besides, as Christopher Lamb reported last May, the Holy See still prefers faxes to email; the recent changes to Vatican rent policies were initially announced on a noticeboard in a courtyard. Francis does not claim a fogeyish merit for his scribbling. “I don’t want to say that this is better than the other,” he told Hadad. “It is a limitation I have, let’s say an impairment.” But he doesn’t equivocate about mobile phones. (He claims to have used one only once, as a bishop, when he was given one like “a shoe”. “I called my sister: ‘How are you doing?’ Bang, I hung up.” That’s brothers for you.)

Some of his cardinals are known devotees of WhatsApp and his most ardent supporters and critics spar on social media, but Francis stays aloof – while the put-upon secretaries keep him informed. “And that gives me great freedom. Because I keep track of everything.” An awful lot of the Pope’s information comes by word of mouth. Since he does not watch television, even the scores of his team San Lorenzo de Almagro are reported back as classified results. This has its disadvantages, but it is practical testimony to his desire for frankness and literal encounter in the Church – he is remarkably friendly about critics who have made their criticisms to his face. It’s one of the odd details that have made Pope Francis what he is. And one of the reasons why he’s not reading this.

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