It's not even been three months since his Twitter account was launched with much gusto, but Pope Benedict XVI’s presence as @Pontifex is set to end as he steps out of office on February 28, according to Vatican Radio.
The Pope has over two million followers on Twitter who read his tweets in nine languages from various accounts. Over 1.5 million of these follow the @Pontifex account in English, 700,000 in Spanish and 335,000 in Italian. Pope Benedict was the first to embrace social media as a medium of propagating the faith, and his accounts will be closed to coincide with his formal departure from the Papal office at 8 p.m local time, said the Vatican Radio.
“It seems unimaginable that one could continue to use a communication tool so popular and powerful during the 'sede vacante' period,” Vatican Radio said. The “sede vacante” period is the interim time before a new Pope takes over. “From choice, the Pontifex profile was not personalized, but it clearly refers to the person of the Pope,” it said.
The Pope sending out his first tweet (Image Credits: The Guardian)
The account has not seen much activity in the recent past, with Pope Benedict sending out only two tweets after the shock announcement of his resignation on February 10. According to the Vatican Radio, Pope Benedict will be making a final post on February 27, when he addresses the general audience in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City. He might also consider sharing his thoughts on the micro-blogging platform one last time on February 28 before “retiring into silence”, it suggested.
The Pope’s popularity on Twitter has been unparalleled from the time he sent out his first tweet on December 12 last year, almost instantly hitting the one-million followers mark as he tweeted in nine different languages.
On the occasion of the 47th World Communications Day, also the feast day of St. Francis de Sales, the patron saint of journalists and writers, the Pope urged Catholics all over the world to use social networking websites like Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter and Tumblr to spread their faith. “The challenge facing social networks is how to be truly inclusive: thus they will benefit from the full participation of believers who desire to share the message of Jesus and the values of human dignity which his teaching promotes. Believers are increasingly aware that, unless the Good News is made known also in the digital world, it may be absent in the experience of many people for whom this existential space is important,” the Pope said in his address.
Whether or not the next Pope embraces social media to stay connected with Catholics worldwide is yet to be seen, but the fact remains that his departure will mark an end of a Twitter era for most people who saw religion embracing technology.
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