The pontiff’s “War never again! Never again war!” message on Monday was retweeted thousands of times and received numerous responses from his perplexed followers.
War never again! Never again war!
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) September 2, 2013
Among them were British author Owen Jones, who likened Pope Francis to a “funky Yoda”, and Australian journalist Jess Hill, who suggested it was the pontiff’s attempt at “dubstyle” urban music.
The message comes a day after Pope Francis declared September 7th a day of fasting and prayers for peace in Syria. As the US Senate prepares to vote on military intervention in Syria, following a chemical weapons attack on civilians, the Pope asserted his anti-war position.
"May the cry for peace enter the hearts of everyone so that they may all lay down their weapons," he said from the Vatican on Sunday.
While today’s tweet is undoubtedly tied to his words on Syria, looking at the Pope’s Spanish-language Twitter account helps explain its deeper significance.
¡Nunca más la guerra! ¡Nunca más la guerra!
— Papa Francisco (@Pontifex_es) September 2, 2013
The Pope has nine Twitter accounts, in different languages, and tweets are translated across all.
The result is usually a fluid message to all of his followers, but this time something was lost in translation.
“¡Nunca más!” means “no more!” in English, yet as a Spanish phrase holds huge significance for the Argentine Pope.
It is used to refer to Argentina’s military dictatorship, which ruled between 1976 and 1983, during which time thousands of people ‘disappeared’.
Jorge Mario Bergoglio, as he was then known, stayed in the country throughout the so-called ‘Dirty War’ and so his Monday message carries the weight of a person who has lived through civil conflict.
While the phrase “¡Nunca más!” is understood throughout the Spanish-speaking world as a term used to describe the horrors of war in Argentina, it is also the name of an official account of the period.
The Nunca más report is a 50,000 page document which includes the findings of Argentina’s National Commission on Disappeared People, which was set up in 1983. It concludes: “We are certain that the military dictatorship was responsible for the greatest and most savage tragedy in the history of Argentina”.
Pope Francis’ strong pacifist tone on Twitter, while confusing for some, therefore makes perfect sense for his Latin American followers.