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Pope opens a personal Twitter account
December 2nd, 2012
02:11 PM ET

Pope opens a personal Twitter account

By Eric Marrapodi and Ben Wedeman, CNN

(CNN) - The Vatican revealed the new personal Twitter account for Pope Benedict XVI, @Pontifex, on Monday, meaning the leader of the global Catholic Church will officially join millions of people around the globe on the social media site.

The pope will answer a question about faith in his first tweet, slated for Wednesday, December 12, Vatican officials said. They said that anyone could send in a question via the hashtag #askpontifex or #B16. The Vatican said the initial tweets from the pope will come on Wednesdays in conjunction with his general audiences in Rome, but that the 140-character missals may become more frequent.

The formal announcement came in a press conference Monday morning at the Vatican with Catholic and Twitter officials.

"The Pope's presence on Twitter is a concrete expression of his conviction that the Church must be present in the digital arena,” the church said in a written statement to reporters. The pope’s account on Twitter, the statement said, “can be seen as the 'tip of the iceberg' that is the Church's presence in the world of new media.”

A Vatican official told CNN the pope will be composing the tweets for the new account himself. For the first tweet from the account, the pope will also press the button to send the tweet himself, but after that others will send the tweets on his behalf.

In June 2011 the pope sent his first tweet from the Twitter account for the Vatican news site, @news_va_en, to launch the new site http://www.news.va. He wrote, “Dear friends, I just launched News.va. Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ! With my prayers and blessings, Benedictus XVI.”

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That signature had led some to guess that @BenedictusPPXVI would be the account name for the 85-year-old pope's personal account, although @Pope would have been fitting as well. (Benedictus PP XVI is the pontiff's signature in Latin, with the "PP" standing for papa, the Latin word for pope.)

With @Pontifex, which means "bridge builder" in Latin, the pope chose a handle with another name for the office he holds.

The details on the long-expected event were revealed at the press conference featuring Vatican officials, including spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi and Greg Burke, media adviser to the Secretariat of State, who were joined by Claire Díaz-Ortiz, who heads social innovation at Twitter. Burke is a relatively new addition to the Vatican staff, having been recruited away from the Fox News Channel, where he was Rome correspondent. Díaz-Ortiz has been influential in getting religious leaders to join the social networking site.

Other religious leaders have found great success with Twitter. The 140-character limit for tweets allows for short messages, perfect for small verses of scripture or inspiration.

The Dalai Lama (@DalaiLama), Rick Warren (@RickWarren), Joel Osteen (@JoelOsteen), and scores of other religious leaders utilize the site to spread their messages.

A Twitter spokeswoman said that religious leaders “punch above their weight” on the social networking site.

“An average religious leader has a rate of about 1 RT for every 500 followers, while a musician on Twitter would get one RT for every 30,000 followers,” said spokeswoman Rachael Horwitz, referring to retweets.

“We see a very high level of engagement with religious and spiritual content: followers respond to these topics with replies, retweets, and clicks on links much more often than they do other subjects,” she added.

While Benedict is the first Catholic pope to take to Twitter, he isn’t the first twitterized pope. That honor goes to His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, the 118th pope of the Coptic Church of Egypt. But Pope Tawadros has around 6,300 Twitter followers; Benedict has tens of thousands on his first day out.

John Paul II, who preceded Benedict, was the first pontiff to use the Internet, and the 20th century saw a string of other milestones for popes using technology to reach the masses. Pope Pius XI made the first papal radio broadcast in 1931. His successor, Pope Piux XII made the first papal television appearance in 1946.

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Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, said, "The initiative comes from the Pope's desire to utilize all opportunities for communication which technology offers and are characteristic in the world today," according to the semi-official newspaper of the Vatican, L'Osservatore Romano.

The paper reported that Celli went on to say the pope has stressed how God communicated with mankind through Jesus, who was a "communicator who addressed the people of his time, using their own language."

One outstanding question remains: What language will the pope use to tweet? When the Vatican sends out important documents, it often uses multiple languages to communicate with the billion-plus members of the Catholic Church. In addition to the English version, the Vatican news twitter feed also has Spanish, French and Italian versions. The appearance of eight pontifical accounts seems to suggest he will be tweeting in all eight languages.

The pope’s foray onto Twitter provoked us to ask “What would Jesus have tweeted?” by tweet. A few responses:

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Catholic Church • Pope Benedict XVI

soundoff (665 Responses)
  1. Beagle

    They should put a caption over his photo, "Come to the Dark side, we have Catechism"...

    December 3, 2012 at 11:53 am |
  2. The Vatican Secretary

    The Pope’s new schedule:

    10:00am – Open casket and rise from beauty sleep
    10:30am – Breakfast IV
    11:30am – Hat fittings
    12:30pm – Bless something
    1:00pm – Lunch IV
    2:00pm – 5:00pm: Send one tweet
    6:00pm – Dinner IV
    8:00pm – Bless something
    9:00pm – Casket closed

    December 3, 2012 at 11:50 am |
  3. yogi

    I look at his picture and think, the Catholic church has become a circus, opposite to the original teachings of Christ.

    December 3, 2012 at 11:49 am |
  4. Seyedibar

    That man cannot take a photo without looking like an evil sorceror. Hilarious, especially considering his belief in jesus-wizards is why i wll never take his religion seriously.

    December 3, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • Beagle

      No silly, not a sorceress... He is the evil emperor from Star Wars...

      December 3, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  5. Beagle

    Looks like the Atheist Evangelists are out proselytizing again. You love your religion, we get it. But Christianity isn't going anywhere. You forget that Christianity grows when it is persecuted. Just ask the Romans...

    December 3, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • Seyedibar

      is it just christianity or all brainwashed cults that confuse criticism for persecutiion. Pretty sure it wasn't us atheists burning people at the stake and drowning women and children alive in the name of jesus.

      December 3, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • Beagle

      Evil abounds in every generation and some idiot claims it as a righteous cause. The US kills over a million babies a year and claim it as a Woman's right to choose.

      December 3, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • GATORpride

      Don't be stupid Syed...Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Pol pot are confirmed atheists. Murderers with their own agenda's. Hardline atheists claim those who believe in religion lack compassion, logic, and intelligence. Keep telling yourselves that if it helps you sleep at night because people have the right to believe in whatever they want, and if you can't see the logic in that than it is you who is illogical and ignorant to history and tradition that is older than your pointless existence.

      December 4, 2012 at 1:40 am |
  6. yogi

    Nope.

    December 3, 2012 at 11:38 am |
  7. Vic

    I am a born again Christian Protestant, and I respect everybody.

    This is not intended for a cheap shot; it's just out of curiosity:

    "Benedict" originally means "the one who gets married!"

    December 3, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • Jon

      No, Benedict is the English version of Benedictus, which means blessing, from the Latin "Bene" "dictus" meaning "good word".

      December 3, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • Vic

      ben·e·dict audio (bn-dkt) KEY

      NOUN:

      A newly married man who was previously considered a confirmed bachelor.

      Source: http://education.yahoo.com/reference/dictionary/entry/benedict

      December 3, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  8. Which God?

    Always figured on the pope being a "twit."

    December 3, 2012 at 11:34 am |
  9. Blasphemy

    I am a humble Christian which is why I wear the gaudy crown and jewels.

    December 3, 2012 at 11:34 am |
  10. Bryan Rickard

    Only after he's dead. Hopefully soon.

    December 3, 2012 at 11:32 am |
  11. Blasphemy

    Some of the most abusive people on the planet follow the Pope.

    They abuse their children and families the most.

    December 3, 2012 at 11:32 am |
  12. The Bible Demystified

    Dear Pope:

    You twit. The world does not want empty, patronizing gestures from you.

    The world wants bold actions–or, at a minimum, bold condemnations that actually name names– from you to make the world a better place.

    December 3, 2012 at 11:29 am |
  13. catholic engineer

    So the pope now has a Twitter account. Some people will think this is progress. As G.K Chesteron pointed out, some people think that Tuesday is progress simply because it's a day past Monday. In modern secular culture, anything can be passed off as progress. If I walk next door and tell my neighbor he's a jerk, that's reprehensible. But now, I can text message a guy in Australia that HE's a jerk, and somehow that's progress.

    December 3, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  14. Not a Fan

    Religion is the biggest fraud and most divisive force on the planet today! Am I going to follow the Pope? Uh, no!

    December 3, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  15. Blasphemy

    Even if the the Pope was not a flake and was sincere he would have no touch with reality.

    December 3, 2012 at 11:27 am |
  16. Blasphemy

    Follow the pretty Pope?

    LMAO

    December 3, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • PrimeNumber

      My guess is that if the pope was merely a cross dresser, you'd be tolerant enough.

      December 3, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • Blasphemy

      Why not be tolerant of mere cross dresser.

      Nothing to be tolerant of really. But the pompous Pope is far more than just a mere cross dresser.

      December 3, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  17. Nietodarwin

    “I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so” [Adolph Hitler, to Gen. Gerhard Engel, 1941]

    Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.
    Seneca the Younger 4 b.c.- 65 a.d.

    Those who believe absurdities will commit atrocities.
    Voltaire

    “Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet. Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.”
    _ Napoleon Bonaparte
    If Atheism is a religion, then health is a disease!
    Clark Adams

    December 3, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • TheXian

      People that claim Christianity as their religion dont always actually follow what Christianity teaches. You are taking individuals from a group to make reference to the purpose of the group. If I do this with black people, I'm racist. Why is it ok for you?

      Instead, take what are the "Christian teachings" and counter them. Explain why they are bad and they do not benefit society. Do not take people who claim to follow these principles but in reality do whatever they want. They obviously aren't fitting in to the category of "christian" which you are attacking.

      December 3, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • PrimeNumber

      "“Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet. Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.”
      _ Napoleon Bonaparte" When religion is gone, an observant atheist will make a startling discovery: all the prisons, police forces, parole boards, gulags, courts, lawyers, the entire judicial system, are maintened by whom? The secular society. Why? Because people will not be nice, with or without religion.

      Hitler? He was not acting as a Catholic. He was acting as a social darwinist.

      December 3, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • tom.gowno

      "I am a practicing Catholic all his life and his faith informs his social doctrine." Joe Biden LOL

      December 3, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • Which God?

      @PN. Still spouting your bullschitt, primenumbnut? You know you are a liar, but you just like to spread your bull. Lonely little man, stuck in a delusion, and too afraid to admit it. I laught at your ignorance, and your foolish belief in a non-existance diety.

      December 3, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • PrimeNumber

      Hi, WHich God. Thanks for your comment. It reminds me that facts are painful to atheists and that I have accomplished my mission. I do need to tone it down, though. Atheists are such fragile types.

      December 3, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
  18. Sonny

    No, he is just another guy. Fork, there is no Gods!! Religions make people hallucinating, sick, stupier and fantasizing something is not there. Wake up !! Religions create wars. Listen to the song "Imagine" John Lenon sang and you will learn from it. Just be kind to one another that would be good enough for me.

    December 3, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • TheXian

      " Listen to the song "Imagine" John Lenon sang and you will learn from it."

      So scientific.

      December 3, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • Akira

      Xian:
      "Read the Bible and learn from it."
      Just as scientific.

      December 3, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • rocketscientist

      Can't I just be religious and kind at the same time? Is that ok with you?

      December 3, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • TheXian

      Akira:
      "Read a history text book and learn it"

      Same concept I apply.

      Otherwise, I use philosophy. kthxbai.

      December 3, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  19. Nietodarwin

    “Scientists do not join hands every Sunday and sing "Yes gravity is real! I know gravity is real! I will have faith! I believe in my heart that what goes up, up, up must come down, down, down. Amen!" If they did, we would think they were pretty insecure about the concept.”
    _ Dan Barker, Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists

    ( This guy started the Freedom From Religion Foundation FFRF.org) Beleivers and non-believers alike, (if you're american) should go take the bible quiz, separation from church and state quiz, and see the great work they are doing in the courts, and in helping people recover from the damage religion has inflicted on their lives.)

    December 3, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • Nietodarwin

      Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue with that; I'm right and I will be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first – rock and roll or Christianity.
      John Lennon

      December 3, 2012 at 11:12 am |
  20. Following Hitler Youth

    Do they still hand out really neato badges with those funny entertwined Zs???

    December 3, 2012 at 11:04 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.