Pope unveils @pontifex Twitter handle
There has always been something quasi-religious about the acquisition of Twitter followers so the rate at which Pope Benedict attracted users of the social network after he joined it this monring under the name @pontifex was hardly surprising.
While the Pope has some way to go before he matches the 1.2 billion followers he has in the real world, his performance in the virtual one so far has been very impressive.
Despite no tweets, his follower numbers have increased by over 500 a minute throughout the day, a rate of growth that has quickly catapulted him into the league of Super-Tweeters alongside Oprah Winfrey, Justin Beiber and Richard Dawkins.
The Vatican said the Pope’s Tweets will be all his own work but anyone
anyone hoping to read about the intimate details of his daily life in the Vatican are likely to be disappointed as his advisors promised he will concentrate on bringing an air of spiritual gravitas to the social network.
“We are going to get a spiritual message. The Pope is not going to be walking around with a Blackberry or an iPad and no-one is going to be putting words into the Pope’s mouth. He will tweet what he wants to tweet,” said the Vatican’s senior media advisor Greg Burke.
The Pope’s user-name was chosen because it means both Pope and bridge builder and his first act on social media will be to take questions from users who send him tweets with the hashtag #askpontifex.
Although the Pope may have already built up an impressive follower number, he does not appear to have fully embraced the concept of social media. At the time of writing, he was following just seven other accounts – all his own. He needs more than one account because he is planning to tweet simultaneously in eight languages – English, German, Italian, Spanish, Portugese and Polish, Arabic and French.
The Vatican said the Pope will not follow anyone else and he most likely will confine his Tweets to snippets from his weekly sermons and reaction to major events.
“The Pope’s presence on Twitter is a concrete expression of his conviction that the Church must be present in the digital area,” a spokesman said. “This initiative is best understood in the context of his reflections on the importance of the cultural space that has been brought into being by new technologies. . . . The Pope’s presence on Twitter can be seen as the tip of the iceberg that is the Church’s presence in the world of new media.”