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Vatican prepares to close @Pontifex account as Pope steps down

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Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI

As Pope Benedict XVI prepares to step down on February 28th, his Twitter account will go dark as well. CNN reports that @Pontifex will close at the same time he formally leaves office, as will the eight accounts that distribute Papal messages in other languages. "It seems unimaginable that one could continue to use a communication tool so popular and powerful during the 'sede vacante' period" during which the Pope's seat is vacant, says Vatican Radio. The Pope is expected to give his last tweet on February 27th along with his final general audience, one of only a few posted since he announced his upcoming resignation.

While this would have eventually happened whenever the Pope's seat was vacated, his sudden resignation means it's taking place only a few months after @Pontifex was created. CNN doesn't specify, but it implies the account will be completely deactivated, not simply left without updates. Vatican Radio also declined to state whether the nascent Twitter tradition will be maintained by Benedict XVI's successor. The account was at least specifically chosen to refer to the office rather than a specific man, so the next Pope could well take up the cause of beating Justin Bieber in retweet counts.