— Jamie and Nikki (@JamieAndNiks) May 30, 2016
The Internet loves Pope Francis — even if the 79-year-old leader of the Catholic church has admitted to being a technology “dinosaur.” For the most part, the pope has praised the Internet’s potential for good from afar, not quite understanding what the Internet is like, but educated on what it can do. On Sunday, the pope had a very close encounter with that culture when he met 12 YouTube vloggers for an hour-long, face-to-face meeting.
The vloggers present cover everything from video games to beauty tips in their videos, and it might be tempting to write a little bit of fan fiction about cool Pope Francis knowing all about contouring now. But based on the available information and excerpts from the meeting so far, it seems that Pope Francis and the group of YouTube celebrities spent a lot of time discussing something the pope does very much care about: how to improve the lives of younger people. While it seems doubtful that Francis will ever start loving Let’s Plays, he seemed aware that the people who make them and videos like it end up reaching a lot of people.
Although Pope Francis may never really participate in the Internet as an individual, he’s repeatedly talked about its potential to be a force for good in the lives of young people — and the consequences of an Internet gone wrong. “The digital world is a public square, a meeting place where we can either encourage or demean one another, engage in a meaningful discussion or unfair attacks,” he said in January. “The Internet can be used wisely to build a society which is healthy and open to sharing.”
The “private” meeting will eventually be vlogged by each of the participants, who come from 10 countries and have a collective total of 26 million subscribers, according to YouTube’s news release on the meeting. Each YouTuber got to ask the pope a question, after being introduced and telling him about what sort of things their channel made.
According to YouTube, the group talked about “immigrant rights, gender equality, loneliness and self-esteem, and greater respect for diversity of all kinds.” Here’s a short round-up of some of Pope Francis’s answers.
On the haters.
— Matthew Patrick (@MatPatGT) May 30, 2016
Matthew Patrick, a.k.a. the Game Theorists’ MatPat, asked Pope Francis about an issue he and the YouTube celebrities in that room had in common: haters.
Noting that Pope Francis has taken stands on controversial issues that have “anger[ed] a lot of people,” Patrick asked Francis to advise others who are “dealing with having to take a stand, to fight for what’s right?”
“I am not always successful. Sometimes I fail and I do not succeed in neutralizing the anger that an opinion or a speech I give can produce,” he said, according to a translation of his remarks in a video excerpt from the meeting. He later added: “What really helps me is to listen. To hear what the positions of others are. And if my position is not in tune with that, we try to persuade …. to sit down, (Argentinians would say with a drink of mate), and chat and talk.” By doing that, he said, “at least the level of belligerence, the level of opposing views will have gone down.”
On religious division.
Noting that “the Bible practically begins with a crime, with a war among brothers” (referring to the Cain and Abel story), Pope Francis responded to a question about religious division from a member of the Israeli musical group Anna RF. “The tendency to separate, to become divided, is a tendency we all carry with ourselves,” he said.
“What betrays us unconsciously is the conception that unity is the equivalent of uniformity,” he said, “and it is not so. it is a relationship between differences.”
On beauty blogging.
The pope told Louise Pentland, who runs the Sprinkle of Glitter beauty channel, that he is “glad that you carry out the type of work you said, following the line of beauty.”
“It’s a great thing. To preach beauty and show beauty helps neutralize aggression,” he added, according to a write-up of the meeting from the Guardian.
Pentland wasn’t the only beauty vlogger present in the meeting. Dulce Candy, a popular YouTube personality who served in the U.S. Army, was also present — though she hasn’t said a ton about the meeting yet.
We just landed in Washington DC :) next stop, ROME! pic.twitter.com/ELvpnWBq4m
— Dulce Candy (@dulcecandy) May 25, 2016
On building a community online.
Apparently in response to a question about whether this soccer goal was the result of God intervening or nah, Francis dodged and talked about what he believed the YouTube stars in the room could do to help those of their followers who were having a hard time, according to the Guardian. “You can create a virtual identity; you belong to this circle at least virtually,” he said. “From that you can start taking a path of optimism and hope.”
The meeting happened toward the end of the Scholas Occurrentes World Congress in Rome — the same event where the pope met a small group of movie stars, including Salma Hayek and George Clooney. The conference focused on many of the issues the pope discussed with the small group of YouTubers: how to build bridges among young people.