Silence of the Cyber Shepherd: Pope Benedict to Close @Pontifex Twitter Account After Feb 28; 10 New Pope Twitter Memes

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By Vittorio Hernandez | February 23, 2013 10:20 AM EST

Vatican Radio confirmed on Friday that Pope Benedict XVI will close the @Pontifex Twitter account when he retires on Feb 28. His last tweet is expected to be on that day when he also says his last address and makes a final benediction.

Since the cardinals will gather sometime in the middle of March to elect the next pope, the matter of whether the next pontiff will also tap social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook to reach out to the Roman Catholic Church's 1.5 billion followers remains to be seen.

Since this first tweet came out in early December 2012

Pope Benedict's Twitter followers had grown to more than 2.5 million Twitter, broken down into 1.5 million who subscribe to the English language feed, 700,000 in Spanish, 335,000 in Italian and 22,500 in Latin.

However, by March 1, the silence of the shepherd will be felt across the cyber world.

"It seems unimaginable that one could continue to use a communication tool so popular and powerful during the 'sede vacante' period," Vatican Radio said in a statement.

"From choice, the Pontifex profile was not personalized, but it clearly refers to the person of the pope," it added.

ABC quoted ANSA's report that Pope Benedict's successor has the choice to reactive the @Pontifex account or create a new one. The 86-year-old retiring pontiff is unlikely to open a personal Twitter account from his retirement home.

As the final days as a pope of the man known before as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger are dwindling, the opposite is happening in the meme and cartoon world. More humorous posts on social media sites on the papacy are coming out.

The focus is divided into his popular Twitter account

to his imminent retirement

His resignation shocked the world and was met with different reactions, ranging from sadness for some Catholics as he departs from St Peter's Basilica

to relief that there will be a new shepherd on the way to Vatican.

The search is definitely on

for Vatican's next pontiff, although the search won't be headed by Tyra Banks nor will there be photoshoots and catwalks as basis for selecting the winner.

On another side of Europe, Brits are hoping another abdication is on the way, but it's not that of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

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