No other pope had the opportunity, but Pope Benedict XVI is the only one to ever have a Twitter account. Tweeting as @Pontifex, a Latin word meaning "bridge builder," starting on December 12, 2012, Pope Benedict sent out 34 tweets to over 1.5million followers as of February 11.
The pope did not officially compose the tweets, but they were considered his own words. Greg Burke, the media adviser to the Holy See, said, "No one will be putting tweets in the pope's mouth." With the Pope Benedict XVI abdicating the papacy on Feb. 28th, let's take a look back at the pope's short lived Twitter run and wonder whether the next pope will follow in Benedict XVI's social media footsteps.
He started things out pretty simply:
"Get in touch" was an interesting way to put it. Not to fault the pope, but he didn't follow anyone (other than the accounts he set up to for the languages other than English), claiming it would be too difficult to decide whom he should follow. He also failed to get involved in the conversational aspect of Twitter because he doesn't respond to tweets.
He did, however, attempt to get conversation going on occasion:
Sometimes, however, the responses weren't that great:
There we have it, the "up yours, the pope" may be the exact reason that the pope wouldn't get involved in the more conversational tone of Twitter (this tweet, riddled with grammatical errors, seems that it could have been composed on the pope's iPad.)
Instead, his tweets were more about the message and theme of Catholicism. While preachy at points, Pope Benedict XVI's Twitter account was like following the Dalai Lama's Twitter, but instead of mantras, the prevailing message of each tweet leant more towards the idea of being a better Catholic.
The pope's last tweet before his resignation read as follows:
As the days dwindle in his papacy, will the pope continue tweeting? Judging from the announcement of the Twitter account in December 2012, it seems that tweets will continue on, and that the new pope will be expected to have an account as well.
Monsignor Claudio Maria Celli, the president of the Holy See's social-communication council, stated, "Twitter allows a new type of evangelism. Which means the pope can reach a new demographic and engage in a dialogue with the faithful."
It is likely that the next pope will have a Twitter account. Will he have a Facebook? Celli didn't think so, citing that "it just doesn't seem like the right vehicle for the pope's message at this time."
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