Like the puff of white smoke from the Vatican announcing a new Pope has been chosen people are today waiting for the leader of the Roman Catholic Church to send his first Tweet to his followers. That’s right the Pope is coming to Twitter.
The Pope is to post his first Twitter message on his personal account on December 12 as he seeks to use the microblogging service to reach out in a new way to the church’s almost 1.2 billion followers around the world.
The Pope will be Tweeting under the Twitter handle @Pontifex, which went from having less than 10,000 followers to more than 360,000 in little more than 24 hours.
The page currently says “Welcome to the official Twitter page of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. Vatican City · news.va“.
In a blog post Twitter spoke about how spiritual and religious leaders around the world use Twitter to spread their message.
“Perhaps not surprisingly, 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. From globally-recognized names to local pastors and faith groups, a wide range of spiritual leaders embrace Twitter to minister to their communities and share meaningful messages,” Twitter said.
While @Pontifex will be the Pope’s primary account in English, he will oversee many more accounts in major languages that will offer translations of his Tweets, to wherever there are Catholics including these: Spanish: @pontifex_es, Italian: @pontifex_it, Portuguese: @pontifex_pt, German: @pontifex_de, Polish @pontifex_pl, Arabic: @pontifex_ar and French: @pontifex_fr.
There are a number of other Twitter accounts bearing the Pope’s name on Twitter. These include @BenedictusPPXVI and @PopeBenedictXIV. The former already has 10,000 followers while the latter has around 900. Another account @Pope_Benedict has 17,000 followers, but has not Tweeted for more than two years.
Vatican officials have said they hope that all the fake Pope accounts will stop once the official account has launched.
Pope Benedict XVI has tweeted in the past via the official Vatican Twitter account @news_va_en, which has 108,000 followers.
Pope Benedict XVI sent his first Tweet on an iPad and the Vatican released a YouTube video showing the Pope sitting down in front of an Apple iPad as a Cardinal talked away at the then 84-year old about Twitter.
Like President Obama, once the account is up and running it is unlikely that the Pope will be sending many of his own Tweets. However, putting a face to Twitter rather than simply having a news service account could help attract many more followers for the church.
Sky reports that Vatican officials have said the Pope will personally press the send key on the first official tweet later today.
Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, told the Vatican newspaper, Vatican L’Osservatore Romano: “The initiative comes from the Pope’s desire to utilise all opportunities for communication which technology offers and are characteristic in the world today.”