#AskPontifex: Twitter questions for the pope touch on faith, sex scandal and lunch
December 13th, 2012
11:51 AM ET

#AskPontifex: Twitter questions for the pope touch on faith, sex scandal and lunch

By Dan Merica, CNN
[twitter-follow screen_name='DanMericaCNN']

(CNN) – Pope Benedict XVI's first tweet from his new personal Twitter account on Wednesday was simple: "Dear friends, I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart.”

But the social media response to the pope's first day of active tweeting has been anything but straightforward.

The pope’s Twitter account quickly swelled to over a million followers and tweets about @pontifex – meaning “bridge builder” – swirled around the Internet. Thousands of the pontiff’s Twitter followers replied to his message, which was retweeted more than 50,000 times.

By Thursday morning Eastern Time, the pope had sent seven tweets, including three responses to Twitter questions from people on three different continents, according to the Vatican.

"How can we celebrate the Year of Faith better in our daily lives?" one of the pope's followers asked via Twitter.

"By speaking with Jesus in prayer," the pope tweeted back, "listening to what he tells you in the Gospel and looking for him in those in need."

Many tweeters this week are employing the hashtag “#AskPontifex,” with questions ranging from the personal to the mundane, from the controversial to the deeply spiritual:

[tweet https://twitter.com/HowardKLW/status/278996173400969216%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/mattleeanderson/status/278967624883392512%5D

Many Catholics welcomed the pope's foray onto Twitter.

“It couldn't hurt,” says James Martin, a Jesuit priest and an editor at America magazine. “The Holy Father's embrace of new technology reminds people that the church is trying to meet people where they are, just like Jesus did.”

Though Martin may not be as popular on Twitter as His Holiness, he is an avid tweeter, with 15,000 followers at @JamesMartinSJ.

Some tweeps – as people on Twitter are known – asked His Holiness tough questions:

[tweet https://twitter.com/Rainzford/status/278943711159808001%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/Filip_ugh_lol/status/278920057801830400%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/DylanCarragher/status/278905654368956417%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/nancy_tg/status/278998635541323777%5D

There were also many questions about the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal:

[tweet https://twitter.com/HarrietTubgirl/status/279001645193494528%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/Mowgli3/status/278881141937799169%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/pyrojoe711/status/278874486760165376%5D

Martin says these sorts of questions should not be surprising.

“It's a huge problem, so it makes sense that people would bring it up to the pope," Martin says. "Something similar happens in presidential press conferences: the most pressing problem is usually the topic of the first question.”

Earlier this year, a study commissioned by the Trenton Archdiocese in New Jersey found that the main reason people were leaving the church was because of what they considered its inadequate response to clergy sex abuse.

As is common with Twitter, Benedict received plenty of tweets from dreamers:

[tweet https://twitter.com/markknoller/status/278977328602820608%5D

And also from the sports obsessed:

[tweet https://twitter.com/ByThomasOToole/status/278994800626257920%5D

And from the politically inclined:

[tweet https://twitter.com/scottklimek2/status/278988260292820992%5D

Many tweeps asked Benedict personal questions:

[tweet https://twitter.com/Todoleo/status/278965372684750848%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/anna19nicole96/status/279002457969926144%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/realjeffreyross/status/278942677729439745%5D

After the Pope sent his first tweet, the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Paul Tighe, told Vatican Radio that it marked "an extraordinary moment."

The attention it sparked within the Twitterverse was impressive, Tighe said, with more than 2,000 retweets in under two minutes.

Some tweeps, however, were unimpressed with pope's reach so far – especially compared to other religious and cultural figures:

[tweet https://twitter.com/BrandonVogt1/status/278854814828470272%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/LopezOnSports/status/278841011260760067%5D

- CNN’s Eric Marrapodi contributed to this report.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Uncategorized

soundoff (131 Responses)
  1. Chick-a-dee

    Benedict XVI ‏@Pontifex Twitter feed

    Any suggestions on how to be more prayerful when we are so busy with the demands of work, families and the world?

    Offer everything you do to the Lord, ask his help in all the circu.mstances of daily life and remember that he is always beside you
    12 Dec Benedict XVI Benedict XVI ‏@Pontifex

    December 16, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • Carol

      My dad prays the rosary while driving to work 🙂

      December 27, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
  2. True Conservative

    What a bunch of garbage puff questions! How about asking the pope, "Why don't you sell some of the gold, gems, ancient scrolls, tapestries and other treasures in the vatican and use the money to solve world hunger?"

    December 16, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • Carol

      What are you, like 12? Can you not google the answer to that? Talk about garbage questions! FYI everything The Vatican has has been donated and it is not in the Pope's name, so he cannot sell it. BTW everything in the Vatican is in the public's name and so cannot be sold. Its there for everyone (catholics, christian non-catholics, protestant, non-believers, muslims) to go see. And world hunger is not the Catholic Church's job, its everyones job! Yours and mine, museums, rich people and governments job, not just the church. Investigate.

      December 27, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
  3. ??????????????

    We are hard wired for hope from birth. Figure iit out.
    Earth timeline

    December 14, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
    • Chick-a-dee

      Catholic Encyclopedia: Hope


      December 15, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  4. Sue

    Bill, you are the one who demonstrably doesn't know what you are talking about, time and time again. Now fuck off with your ad hominems already and try answering the question that was asked of Chick, you pathetic, deluded ass hole.

    December 14, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Folks, there are sheep and then there are goats and that is just how it goes.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
  5. Lou

    NANCY@nancy_tg tweeted
    "@Pontifex #askpontifex As young I love God and my faith burns,how I can share my faith in a society without hope?"

    Who the hell is she to judge that society is "without hope"? The old taboos, bigotries and superst ituons are falling away, I see nothing but HOPE for society.

    December 14, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • John Bunyan

      She's not judging, God/the bible is. She's just saying what the scriptures say.

      It's like a herald in an army going out and giving the conditions of surrender to the general of the opposing army. He's just relaying the information he's been given.

      December 14, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
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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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.