On December 3rd, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI joined Twitter under the name @pontifex, posting inspirational messages on both it and eight non-English sub-accounts. But his social media presence ended with his unexpected resignation. After his final speech as Pope, the Vatican removed his tweets, archiving them and leaving a blank account for the next pope — whoever that may be.
Feb 28, 2013
As Pope Benedict XVI officially steps down, he's issued one last tweet on the @pontifex account. Despite previous reports, however, the account itself will simply remain dormant while the seat is empty. After an initial statement seemed to imply that the account would be deactivated, Vatican Radio later clarified the matter, stating that "@pontifex will be inactive during the interim period between the renouncement of Pope Benedict XVI and the election of his successor (sede vacante). @pontifex will be available for use by the next Pope as he may wish." Forbes also received a statement that the account would "not shut down." Presumably, the Vatican will be working hard to make sure hackers don't take the reins during its search for a new Pope.Read Article >
Feb 22, 2013
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.Read Article >
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.
Jan 25, 2013
For the past month and a half, Pope Benedict XVI has been spreading the good word on Twitter, racking up retweets as one of the service’s most visible users. Now, he’s telling the faithful that they should be doing the same thing, making sure to keep religion in the conversation on social networks by appealing to the sensibilities of "those we wish to invite to an encounter with the mystery of God’s love."Read Article >
In a World Communications Day message entitled Social Networks: Portals of Truth and Faith; New Spaces for Evangelization and reported by News.va, the head of the Roman Catholic church stressed that social networks aren’t some kind of alternate world, they're a significant part of many people’s daily lives. He noted, however, that "the significance and effectiveness of the various forms of expression appear to be determined more by their popularity than by their intrinsic importance and value." These unimportant and low-value conversations make the online world an important new space for evangelization. It’s only natural for the faithful to want to share the word with the people they meet online, says the Pope, so long as they do it "respectfully and tactfully."
Dec 20, 2012
Two weeks after the first-ever tweet from a pope, the Vatican is touting its success on the social media platform. An article on official news site The Vatican Today claims that the pope's account is "exceeding pop stars like Justin Bieber in the percentage and number of retweets of his messages," citing 1.2 million retweets of @pontifex's first tweet from over 2 million followers. It's not clear where the Vatican got that 1.2 million figure, however: tallying up the retweets across the pope's eight foreign language accounts currently gives a total of 115,407, with all of the accounts together accumulating 2,115,421 followers at the time of this writing.Read Article >
Even with the miscount, the Vatican is correct that the pope's first message had a greater percent of retweets per follower than Bieber's highly-retweeted message honoring a six-year-old fan's battle with cancer. It's hardly the most telling stat, considering Bieber's 31.7 million followers, but the Vatican suggests that it shows "a broader trend...[that] a lot is being said about spirituality and religion" on Twitter. However, it may just reveal that the Vatican doesn't quite understand the social network yet.
Dec 12, 2012
Pope Benedict XVI has shared his first words from his very own Twitter account, as promised. The single tweet, sent using an iPad, has already been retweeted thousands of times and marks the start of a number of accounts in various languages — all of which the pope's main account is following. While the pope used an iPad today, he's not adverse to Android either after using a Sony Tablet S to ignite a holiday lighting display last year.Read Article >
The pope's account is part of a larger push to appeal to (young) people who spend time online, and it's also an attempt to keep the Catholic Church as accessible as possible. The Vatican already has its own Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube accounts, and Benedict has tweeted twice before. However, today marks the first time the pope has shared from his very own Twitter account.
Dec 12, 2012
When the Vatican announced that Pope Benedict XVI had joined Twitter last week, it seemed like a simple case of an age-old institution trying to keep up with the social media-driven times. According to a report from the Washington Post, however, Twitter was the driving force in the deal, and has made several similar moves in an attempt to lure high-profile figures to the service.Read Article >
For the pope, a Twitter employee will reportedly be by his side as he makes the first tweet, which will be pre-drafted in eight different languages, and may actually do the typing. A spokesman for the Vatican told the Post that he believed Twitter had made the initial approach, and Adam Sharp of Twitter said:
Dec 3, 2012
The head of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI, has signed up for Twitter with the handle @pontifex (latin for "bridge builder," meaning pope). He'll send his first tweet from the account on December 12th to coincide with the festival of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Tweets from @pontifex will be in English, but will be mirrored via separate accounts in Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, German, Polish, Arabic, and French.Read Article >
Through the official announcement, the pope is inviting questions to all the above accounts, which presumably he'll do his best to answer after his initial tweet. Although subsequent postings are likely to be handled by his advisors, the first tweet from @pontiflex will be sent by the pope himself. Benedict XVI isn't totally new to Twitter, however: last year, he sent a tweet through the Vatican News account, inviting users to check out the out the site.