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Pope joins tweeting masses with @Pontifex handle



Pope Benedict XVI touches a touchpad to send a tweet for the launch of the Vatican news information portal “www.news.va”, at the Vatican in this June 28, 2011 file photo. The Vatican said Monday that Pope Benedict XVI will start tweeting in six languages on December 12. AP

VATICAN CITY—Benedict XVI, the pope known for his hefty volumes of theology and lengthy encyclicals, is now trying brevity — spreading the faith through his own Twitter account.

The pontiff will tweet in eight languages starting December 12 using his personal handle @Pontifex, responding live to questions about faith during his weekly general audience, the Vatican said Monday.

Within 10 hours of the Vatican’s announcement, Benedict had already garnered nearly half a million followers on the English version of @Pontifex alone, with thousands more following him in the eight other language accounts.

All that, and he hadn’t sent a single tweet.

He may never hit the one billion faithful that the Catholic Church counts around the globe, but he’s odds-on to get one million followers by the end of the year, British bookmakers Ladbrokes said.

The pope sent his first tweet last year from a generic Vatican account to launch the Holy See’s news information portal, and someone in his name tweeted daily during Lent, part of the Vatican’s efforts to increase the church presence in social media.

A personal Twitter account for the 85-year-old Benedict has been the subject of intense speculation ever since, and Monday’s news conference was packed, a strong indication of the interest it has generated.

Greg Burke, the Vatican’s communications adviser, said the handle @Pontifex was chosen because it not only means pope in Latin, but also bridge-builder, suggesting unity.

How often will the pope tweet? “As often as he wants,” Burke said, though he noted somewhat sarcastically that the pope, who still writes longhand, doesn’t check his (nonexistent) Blackberry obsessively during meetings “like the rest of us.”

“He’s not that kind of person. He’s not walking around with an iPad. But all the pope’s tweets are the pope’s words,” Burke said.

While the pope will push the button himself on December 12, subsequent tweets will be sent by someone in the Vatican’s secretariat of state. They will, however, all be approved by the pope, officials said.

“It’s always going to have his engagement and his approval,” said Monsignor Paul Tighe, the No. 2 in the Vatican’s social communications office. “Not physically, but from his mind.”

Questions for the inaugural papal tweet can be submitted to #askpontifex, and the pope will likely respond to three to five of those sent from around the world, Burke said. Subsequent tweets are expected to remain spiritual in nature, taken from his teachings or homilies.

By late Monday, many of the questions sent in were jokes and criticism, including of the church sex abuse scandal — tweets the pope will likely never see.

Currently a host of Twitter accounts use the pope’s name, purporting to be his personal account. The @Pontifex account, however, is certified as the only official papal Twitter feed, Tighe said.

Twitter spokeswoman Rachael Horowitz declined to comment on whether the strong interest in the launch of the pope’s handle would break any records, saying Twitter doesn’t track the number of followers for individual account-holders.

But she noted in an email that religious content on Twitter “punches above its weight” in terms of interest and engagement. Religious leaders, for example, get one retweet for every 500 followers, whereas a musician gets one for every 30,000 followers.

Don’t expect the pope himself to necessarily be retweeting, however. He doesn’t plan to follow anyone other than himself, simply because it would be impossible to avoid offending people he didn’t follow, Burke said.

Papal tweets will be sent simultaneously in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German, Polish and Arabic. Monsignor Claudio Maria Celli, the president of the Vatican’s social communications office, said he hoped to add Chinese.

He stressed that the papal tweets aren’t to be considered infallible teachings, merely “pearls of wisdom” in the pope’s own words.

The Vatican has been increasing its presence in social media, using YouTube channels and Facebook pages for special events and Twitter to engage believers and nonbelievers alike, particularly the young.

The Vatican decided against using a personal Facebook page for the pope because they thought it was too personal an interaction and would require more manpower to keep updated.


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Tags: Benedict XVI , Pope , religion , Social Media

  • Baruk1

    Let us hope that the pope will promote understanding the Bible, the mind of God in writing. (2 Tim 3:16-17)All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
     
    Hoping he will preach the gospel that Jesus Christ preached. (Mark 1:14-15) Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,  and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
     
    The end of this evil world will come (Matt 24:14) And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.
     
    A wonderful world (Isa 11:6-11; Isa 35:1-6) will come under Jesus Christ as King of Kings and Lord of Lord (Rev 19:20-21).
     

  • Baruk1

    Let us hope that the pope will promote understanding the Bible, the mind of God in writing.

  • UrHONOR

    THE world is FLAT….ops, round pala.  The sun revolves around the planet earth…..ops, mali, baliktad pala. Facebook too personal….ops, oo nga pala, you have to pass through the “guards, agents, and go-betweens to get through the assistant of god.  PSHAW!!!

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/NYP657UPAXCUFUKIPGLZR7ZBPQ HaroldT

    Why  doesn’t he spread  God’s Word to his followers instead of his own words ?Does he hate The Bible?

    • http://twitter.com/AlimtheWrath Alim A

      who wrote the efffin bible? the romans and lucifer.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/NYP657UPAXCUFUKIPGLZR7ZBPQ HaroldT

        The Romans and Lucifer created the ROMAN Catholic,my  friend…By the way ROMANS ARE PAGANS,see the connection?



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