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Archbishop weighs social media

Social media can be "poisonous" and destructive but can also be used to do great good, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.

Dr Rowan Williams said Pope Benedict XVI and many of his fellow Church of England bishops are now on Twitter but he struggles with "any kind" of technology.

The outgoing archbishop, speaking on the BBC Radio 2 Pause for Thought slot on the Chris Evans Breakfast Show, said it was often assumed that clergy were "too unworldly" for social media. But not all clergy should be assumed to be as "dim" as he is in this area.

Dr Williams spoke of how Sam Johnson, a New Zealand student, received a huge response after putting out a call through Twitter for help clearing up and doing rescue work following the Christchurch earthquakes.

"Thousands of students from all the way across New Zealand turned up and spent weeks and months in Christchurch doing essential work and getting a community on its feet again," said Dr Williams.

"When I visited Christchurch a few weeks ago, I met Sam and some of the others involved, and actually got to speak at a rock concert that had been laid on free of charge to celebrate all this achievement.

"Rock concerts and archbishops are at least as unlikely a combination as Twitter and the Pope, I realise. But what an occasion; a real witness to what small initiatives can turn into.

"Well, Christmas is God's small initiative: a single baby, whose destiny is to change the entire world."

The message about social media from Dr Williams, who does not own a mobile phone, comes as he is due to stand down as Archbishop of Canterbury at the end of this month after a decade in office. He will take up a new post as master of Magdalene College, Cambridge and will also serve as chairman of the board of trustees at Christian Aid, the international development agency.

The Rt Rev Justin Welby, Bishop of Durham, who has 14,483 Twitter followers, will be enthroned as his successor at Canterbury Cathedral in March.

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