Pope joins tweeting masses with Pontifex handle
VATICAN CITY — Benedict XVI, the pope known for his hefty volumes of theology, is now trying brevity — spreading the faith through his own Twitter account.
The pontiff will tweet in eight languages starting Dec. 12 using his personal account at https://twitter.com/Pontifex to respond live to questions about faith during his weekly general audience, the Vatican said Monday.
Within six hours of the Vatican's announcement, Benedict had already garnered nearly 150,000 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 even sent a single tweet.
He may never hit 1 billion faithful that the Catholic Church counts around the globe, but he's odds-on to get 1 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, part of efforts to increase the church presence in social media and spread the faith. A personal Twitter account for the 85-year-old Benedict has been the subject of intense speculation ever since; 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, adding that he hoped the tweeting would be frequent.
While the pope will push the button himself on Dec. 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 — Twitter spam that 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. No special security arrangements have been taken to prevent the account from being hacked.
Burke said Twitter has many celebrity clients. “They seem to be able to take care of them. We assume they'll be able to take care of us as well.”
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 such data of individual account followers.
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.
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.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Egypt’s beleaguered tourism industry bounces back
- Leak of grand jury information could cost Attorney General Kane
- Pirates enter Plan B with Martin off market
- For Steelers, a fight to finish for playoff berth
- The bullet inside your body ‘becomes a part of you’
- Machinists ranked No. 1 occupation by Department of Labor
- Pitt beats Syracuse, snaps 3-game losing streak
- Church to host hunter breakfast
- Alle-Kiski Valley slips into the holiday spirit with Light Up Night festivities
- Starkey: No explaining Steelers, AFC North
- Small retailers at intersection of social networks, foot traffic