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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Divine intervention: Papal tweet of support for ‘Saints’ goes viral

A hashtag mix-up caused a papal tweet meant to give thanks for the Catholic Church’s newest saints to be read as Pope Francis showing support for the New Orleans Saints’ NFL team.

After the canonisation of five new saints, including St John Henry Newman, on Sunday 13th October, the pope’s official Twitter account, @Pontifex, tweeted: ‘Today we give thanks to the Lord for our new #Saints. They walked by faith and now we invoke their intercession.’

However, the Twitter hashtag automatically uploaded a fleur-de-lis, the official logo of the National Football League team. Needless to say, the tweet caught the attention of many Saints’ fans, who interpreted the tweet as invoking divine intervention for their team’s game that day against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

‘Big Guy telling you something for this afternoon,’ a Twitter user said, sharing the pope’s tweet. ‘Adjust your bets accordingly, Vegas.’

‘Time to put 10k on the #Saints,’ another Twitter user wrote.
Other fans were elated that Christ’s vicar on earth was in their corner. ‘Pope Francis told 18 million followers that he was #WhoDatNation. I love it,’ another Twitter follower wrote, referring to the New Orleans football team’s ‘Who Dat’ chant.

However, people rooting for other football teams couldn’t hide their dismay. ‘We lost the pope!’ a Twitter user tweeted to the New England Patriots.

But the reaction of the day came from the New Orleans Saints’ own Twitter account after their 13-6 victory over the Jaguars.

‘Couldn’t lose after this,’ the Saints’ account tweeted after sharing the papal tweet. ‘#Blessed and highly favored.’

A Vatican official confirmed on Monday 14th October that use of the hashtag to trigger the ‘hashflag’ – the fleur-de-lis – was a case of “accidental evangelisation”, but hoped that “maybe someone who didn’t know will become aware that there are other ‘saints’ to pay attention to”.

Picture: Pope Francis, tweeting about the new saints he recognised on Sunday 13th October, inadvertently used a hashtag connected to the New Orleans Saints football team. But fans appreciated it, as did the team. (CNS).