3 Dec 2012

Pope takes to Twitter to answer your questions

The Catholic Church signs the Pope up for his own Twitter account but how many of his 1.2 billion religious followers will be reading his tweets?

Pope takes to Twitter to answer your questions

Pope Benedict, whose Twitter username is Pontifex, has the potential to knock Lady GaGa off her perch as the most followed user.

His account quickly gathered over 100,000 online followers, with Ladbrokes offering odds of six to one that the pontiff will top Lady GaGa’s 31million followers by January 2014.

“The handle is a good one. It means ‘pope’ and it also means ‘bridge builder’,” Greg Burke, senior media adviser to the Vatican explained.

The Vatican has confirmed that the pope will commence tweeting from 12 December (the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe) and will be composing his own tweets offering spiritual wisdom.

The Catholic Church hopes the Pope’s short messages and the bigger ideas they will seek to encapsulate can “give rise to questions for people from different countries, languages and cultures”.

The first tweets will respond to questions put the the Pope on matters of faith with the public invited to send questions between now and 12 December in Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, German, Polish, Arabic and French.

What would you ask? #askpontifex

The Vatican has taken precautions to ensure the pope’s account is not hacked with just one computer in the Vatican used for the tweets.

Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, the head of Vatican communications, has said he himself is not a Twitter fan but understands its possibilities for the church.

“Reducing the pope’s message to 140 characters is definitely a challenge but we have seen that a profound thought can also be expressed in a brief biblical passage,” Celli explained.

Claire Diaz-Ortiz, Twitter’s director of social innovation, was present for the announcement this moring at the Vatican city.

The arrival of the head of the Catholic church has provoked a mixed response from Twitter users with Fifa president Sepp Blatter declaring: “Honoured to be sharing this platform with such exalted company!”.

Piers Morgan was quick to boast: “I’ve got 30 times as many followers as The Pope” before adding “Any chance of an interview, Your Holiness?”

Twitter has over 500 million active users and a number of majority Catholic countries are in the top 10 highest users list, including Ireland, France and Brazil.

Stiff competition

The site offers huge potential for engaging religious communities. In 2010 US Pastor Rick Warren was named as one of the top 20 most influential Twitter celebrities for his stream of religious tweets.

Pastor Warren ranked alongside Justin Bieber for the impact of his recommendations, opinions and links taking into account the volume of retweets his posts gather.

Muslims have also taken to the site with users tweeting extracts from the Quran during Ramadan and sharing their experiences during Hajj.