14 Mar 2013

Habemus tweet ’em: a Twitter baptism for Pope Francis

From Wizard of Oz spoofs to papal emoticons and a fake Hand of God, the arrival of a new Pope sent Twitter into overdrive on Wednesday. Channel 4 News takes a look.

Pope tweets - from the Wizard of Oz to papal emoticons.


The Vatican’s own official Twitter team @VaticanCommunication began the fun by using a row of emoticons to announce the election of the new Pope. This was social media’s version of chemically-enhanced white smoke at the Sistine Chapel – and it was retweeted more than 14,000 times.

If you ever wondered what a backslash, a letter O and a forward slash meant… well, we don’t really know either. This – o/ o/ o/ o/ o/ o/ – is what the Vatican tweeted along with the Latin phrase “Habemus Papam” (We have a Pope) on Wednesday evening.

It was greeted with astonishment on Twitter, with followers tweeting “Is that a pope hat or are you just happy to see me?” and “I can’t get over the emoticon usage by the official papal communication twitter account”.

For the record, we think it’s a papal mitre, or possibly the papal keys on the pontiff’s coat of arms. Or a row of happy Catholics. Only the Pontifical Council for Social Communications (yes, really) from the Holy See truly know. If you are pontifically wiser, tell us on Twitter @Channel4News.

A fake image of Diego Maradona which did the rounds on Twitter, plus the real image it was taken from.

Left, a fake image of Maradona which did the rounds on Twitter. Right, the original image.

Fake Maradona

A certain “Hand of God” was quick to use his fingers to tweet his approval as the first Latin American pope was revealed to the world.

The most famous footballer from the Pope’s home nation, Argentina’s Diego Maradona (@DiegoAMaradona), delightedly announced “the Pope is an Argentine!!!” to his 98,000 followers. His endorsement proved irresistible to newspapers around the world, many of which went on to feature a photograph of Maradona holding up a sign reading “the hand of God approves of the new Pope”. It was fake, of course, with the original image directed at Maradona’s girlfriend – “Rocio, I love you”.

Piers Morgan, the former editor of the Daily Mirror, and no stranger to fake photos, added his voice to the papal/football theme. The TV presenter tweeted: “Argentina now has the No1 Catholic, and No1 footballer, on the planet #Bergoglio #Messi”.

Pope of Oz

Meanwhile, musical fans tittered at a creative reworking of the papal smoke signal featuring the special effect written in the sky – “Surrender Dorothy” – from 1939 cinema classic The Wizard of Oz. The – yes, fake – image sped around social networks on Wednesday as all eyes followed the not-so-yellow brick road to the roof of the Sistine Chapel.

Will Pope Francis tweet?

Our Economics Editor Faisal Islam was quick to spot the dodgy numbers on a fake Cardinal Bergoglio account (below) which was rapidly followed by tens of thousands of people. Intriguingly the account has since been suspended, raising the possibility that Pope Francis intends to take up tweeting for real, and doesn’t want any confusion.

More from Channel 4 News: Who is Pope Francis?

He would be following in the red-shoed footsteps of not Dorothy but Pope Benedict, who used Twitter to communicate with 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide, hosting #askpontifex question and answer sessions with his digital flock. In fact It looks like Benedict’s @Pontifex account is being readied for Francis, with the message “HABEMUS PAPAM FRANCISCUM” posted on Wednesday and all previous tweets removed.

This might be a wise move for Francis, already billed as the Pope of the people. According to social media analysts Topsy.com, “Bergoglio” has featured in half a million tweets over the last 24 hours. And Twitter itself said it had counted seven million Pope-related tweets.

However, the new leader of the Catholic church failed to match President Obama, who featured in a whopping 20 million tweets when he was re-elected in November 2012. Habemus Obamam.