The Pope joins Twitter, gets 200,000 followers in hours

Steven Loeb · December 3, 2012 · Short URL:

With over one billion members of the Catholic Church, can he beat Gaga for most followers?

If there is one clear edge that Twitter has over Facebook, it is how it allows people to feel close to their favorite celebrities.

Honestly, no one really knows if any of these people do any of the Tweeting themselves (some stars can’t be bothered to even hold their own umbrellas, so not all that difficult to image them having an assistant pretend to be them on Twitter) but that isn’t the point. Twitter blurs the line between celebrities like Lady Gaga, Ashton Kutcher and Justin Beiber, and their fans, and allows people to at least feel like they are, in some way, speaking directly to someone they consider important. Just imagine the power a religious figure could have on a platform that creates the illusion of closeness.

Starting Monday, these entertainers will have a major competitor for Twitter dominance, as someone has just joined Twitter who commands the love of millions of people, who would jump at the chance to feel close to him.

I’ll give you hint: depending on what you believe, he may just be infallible.

That’s right, Pope Benedict XVI has joined Twitter, with the handle @pontifex, a term for pope that means bridge-builder in Latin, the Vatican announced Monday.

The first Tweet from the Pope on December 12, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. People are encouraged to Tweet their questions to the Pope, using the #AskPontifex. Questions will be picked by the Vatican, and the Pope will response in a live tweeting event.

Within hours of setting up the account, it already had over 100,000 followers. It currently has 185,020 followers, and counting. Considering that the Church has over one billion members worldwide, it seems that the Pope could easily beat the current champ, Lady Gaga, who currently has 31,763,230 followers, the most of any Twitter account, according to Twitaholic.

The Pope’s Twitter account will be available in eight different languages, Spanish, Italian, Portugese, German, Polish, Arabic, French and English, It is unclear whether or not the Pope will follow any other accounts; right now he is only following is own account in the other languages.

Calling the, Pope’s new Twitter account “the tip of the iceberg” for the Church’s presence on media, the Vatican said that the Church has already begun adopting “a whole range of initiatives,” including “official websites of various institutions and communities to the personal sites, blogs and micro-blogs of public church figures and of individual believers.”

“The Pope’s presence in Twitter is ultimately an endorsement of the efforts of these ‘early adapters’ to ensure that the Good News of Jesus Christ and the teaching of his Church is permeating the forum of exchange and dialogue that is being created by social media. His presence is intended to be an encouragement to all Church institutions and people of faith to be attentive to develop an appropriate profile for themselves and their convictions in the ‘digital continent’. The Pope’s tweets will be available to believers and non-believers to share, discuss and to encourage dialogue. It is hoped that the Pope’s short messages, and the fuller messages that they seek to encapsulate, will give rise to questions for people from different countries, languages and cultures,” said the Vatican.

“Spiritual and religious leaders around the world spread their messages and maintain an exceptionally strong presence on Twitter. 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,” Claire Diaz Ortiz, Manager of Social Innovation at Twitter, wrote in a blogpost Monday.

“The Pope’s presence on Twitter means that no matter where you live or where you are, you can connect with, and get inspiration directly from, one of the world’s most influential religious leaders.”

Obviously, there is always some danger in creating a Twitter account, and people have made big mistakes by airing their views to a wide audience.

For example, during the Olympics, when Greek triple jumper Paraskevi Papachristou tweeted, "With so many Africans in Greece, at least the mosquitoes of West Nile will eat homemade food!!!"

After accusations of racism, she remained defiant, tweeting, “"I'm not a stuck CD! And if I make mistakes, I do not hit replay! I continue playing!”

Papachristou eventually apologized, but was still removed by the Greek Olympic team. 

This Pope has not been without his share of controversy over the past few years, so it would probably be a good idea to have someone looks over his Tweets before he send them out.

(Image source:

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