In case you've not been following the news today, something huge has happened: the Pope's last day was today!
If there was ever a sign of the times in which we live, as his last action as Pope before leaving the Vatican for the final time on Thursday, the Pope sent out one final goodbye Tweet to his 1.6 million followers:
"Thank you for your love and support. May you always experience the joy that comes from putting Christ at the centre of your lives."
Yes, the last thing that Benedict XVI did as Pope was push the send button on Twitter.
Benedict XVI was, of course, the first Pope ever to Tweet, and it therefore seems fitting that it would be the last action he took. Surely his attempt to push the Vatican into the 21st century, at least when it came to technology, will be part of his legacy going forward.
I would guess that being the first Pope to ever Tweet, along with the whole resigning thing, will probably be the two most memorable parts of his tenture.
Yes. His resignation was also big news. When he announced his resignation on Feb. 11, it sent shock waves throughout the world (OK. That's a bit of an embellishment.) But seriously, the last time this happened was almost 600 years ago, in 1415 with Pope Gregory XII. The last time Pope resigned voluntarily was even longer ago, with Pope Celestine V in 1294 (thank you Wikipedia!).
The Pope on Twitter
The Pope first joined Twitter on December 3rd, with the handle @pontifex, a term for pope that means bridge-builder in Latin. The Pope’s Twitter account was made available in eight different languages: Spanish, Italian, Portugese, German, Polish, Arabic, French and English. Within hours of joining, he had 200,000 followers on the English account.
Despite joining on the 3rd, he waited nine days to send out a message, with the first official Tweet being sent out by the Pope on December 12, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
That first message was retweeted more than 64,000 times, and favorited more by more than 25,000 users.
To celebrate the feast, and the Pope's first day on Twitter, regular people were encouraged to Tweet their questions to the Pope, using the hashtag #AskPontifex. Questions were then picked by the Vatican, and the Pope responsed in a live tweeting event.
In the two plus months he was on Twitter, the Pope sent out 39 Tweets in all and he gained over 1.6 million followers on the English account alone, making it the 768th largest Twitter account, according to Twitaholic.
So what happens to the Pontifex handle now that there will be a new Pope? Frankly, its kind of up in the air.
The account will be dormant until a new Pope is chosen, and then it will be up to Benedict XVI's successor to decide whether or not he wants to keep it open, Monsignor Paul Tighe, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, told Forbes.
“Obviously we leave all decisions to the new man,” Tighe said. “But we would hope that he might continue to use @pontifex, which would maintain continuity.”
All of the Pope's Tweets have now been deleted from the Pontifex Twitter account, which now reads "Sede Vacant." Some of the Pope's Tweets can still be seen here.
(Image source: http://lambswar.blogspot.com)