No More Tweets from Vatican After Feb 28 Until New Pope is Elected

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By Vittorio Hernandez | February 18, 2013 10:35 AM EST

The famous religious leader who has more than 1.5 million Twitter followers will no longer tweet after Feb 28. Pope Benedict XVI, who owns the Twitter handle Pontifex, will no longer tweet beyond next Friday, reports Al Jazeera.

The pontiff is expected to post his last tweet on Feb 28, his last day at work. It is also the date of his last public appearance and Vatican is preparing the tiny city for a deluge of pilgrims, tourists and media. His last tweet would likely be to say good-bye to his followers over the past few months.

However, Reuters noted that had the pope tweeted his resignation, it would have been the tweet of the century. He instead opted to announce in person on Monday, Feb 11, his quitting his post by the end of February. The video of Pope Benedict's resignation were then released simultaneously to media.

Reuters opined that the pope opted for that strategy to avoid leaks of his announcement which rocked the world since his tweets are actually typed by an aide.

To further ensure protection of the papal Twitter account from hackers, the tweets are sent from a locked room in the Holy See from a dedicated computer. The pope joined and sent his first tweet in Dec 12, 2012.

After news of his resignation quit, Twitter counted about 1.5 million comments on the development within the first 36 hours, said analytics firm Crimson Hexagon. However, one third of the tweets were negative, 38 per cent were jokes and only 7 per cent were positive.

"We are receiving tweets that I consider not worthy of a human person . . . When you are offending in a vulgar way, that is not worthy of a human being," Reuters quoted Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, head of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. The council was established by the Vatican in the 1940s to tap the flourishing film industry then to reach more Catholics, but Pope Benedict decided in December to join the cyberworld by going into Twitter, YouTube and a smartphone app called The Pope App.

However, the tweets may be return back sooner than expected since the Vatican is considering beginning the conclave earlier than the first announced date of mid-March. That is granting the next pope is a techie who would want to go with the times.

While current rules require a 15- to 20-day waiting period after the papacy becomes vacant before the conclave date is set, Fr Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said they church may waive the rule and instead start the election right on the first day of the vacancy.

He explained that the waiting period was made to allow the eligible cardinals to travel to Vatican for the conclave, but that rule was made with the scenario of the current pope dying, not abdicating. Since the whole world is aware of Pope Benedict stepping down on Feb 28, the cardinals would have sufficient grace period to travel to Italy and participate in the much-awaited conclave.

He explained the rush is to attempt to have a new pope to preside over Holy Week which starts March 24 with the Palm Sunday Mass and ends with the Easter Sunday Mass on March 31. Holy Week is considered the most solemn liturgical period in the Roman Catholic Church.

To meet these targets, the new pope must be installed at the latest by Sunday, March 17, Fr Lombardi said.

Considered the wagers' favourite to succeed Pope Benedict is Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who has said that top job is actually a clergyman's nightmare.

He was ordained in 1968 and was appointed parish priest of La Motte in British Columbia. He also taught at a seminary and became a cardinal in 2003. Cardinal Ouellet has headed the Congregation for Bishops for the past three years.

Besides the Canadian cardinal, another favourite candidate is Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson. Here is a peek at who possibly could be the first black pope.

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