Pope joins tweeting masses with Pontifex handle

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 3, 2012 at 4:17 pm •  Published: December 3, 2012
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Questions for the inaugural papal tweet can be submitted to (hash)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 — tweets the pope will likely never see.

Currently a host of Twitter accounts use the pope's name, purporting to be his personal account. The (at)Pontifex account, however, is certified as the only official papal Twitter feed, Tighe said.

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 the number of followers for individual account-holders.

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.

Don't expect the pope himself to necessarily be retweeting, however. He doesn't plan to follow anyone other than himself, simply because it would be impossible to avoid offending people he didn't follow, Burke said.

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.

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Follow Nicole Winfield at www.twitter.com/nwinfield