Vatican City, Italy – Pope Benedict XVI sent his first tweet, a simple and humble message of greetings. At around the same time the message was sent, the number of followers of Pope Benedict’s @Pontifex Twitter account surpassed the 1 million mark on the eight languages of the handle with over 728,000 English speakers alone, adding some 11,000 followers in the prior two hours.
As previously reported by The Inquisitr, the launch of the Pope Twitter account was perhaps the most heralded event ever for the social media service. At first there was some speculation about what the Pope’s Twitter handle might be, and many people started directing their Tweets toward non-existent accounts. Finally, the Pope chose @Pontifex.
“The handle is a good one. It means ‘pope’ and it also means ‘bridge builder’,” said Greg Burke, senior media adviser to the Vatican. “The pope wants to reach out to everyone.”
According to CBS, a personal Twitter account for the 85-year-old Benedict has been the subject of speculation ever since the Vatican’s senior communications official said in February the idea was gaining traction. The Pope will not actually transcribe the tweets himself, but he will be the writer nonetheless.
The first papal tweet has been the subject of intense curiosity, although this is not his first time on Twitter. Pope Benedict actually sent his very first tweet over a year ago, using a generic Vatican account to launch the Holy See’s news information portal. Someone in his name tweeted daily during Lent, part of the Vatican’s efforts to increase the church presence in social media.
The Vatican is not against using new media formats for getting out its message. Eighty years ago, Pope Pius XI launched Vatican Radio to bring the pope’s message on radio waves around the globe. The Vatican also has its own newspaper and television service and maintains dedicated YouTube channels and an Internet news portal.
The Pope’s first Tweet from @Pontifex simply read:
“Dear friends, I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart.”
About an hour later the Pope posed a question, which he then answered himself:
“How can we celebrate the Year of Faith better in our daily lives? By speaking with Jesus in prayer, listening to what he tells you in the Gospel and looking for him in those in need.”
Unfortunately, some of the responses to the first Pope tweet have not been so reverent. One of the first Twitter replies was “hooker and blow,” and, even before the Pontifex account was announced, there was a flow of hateful messages directed toward the leader of the Catholic church. What do you think about the content of the Pope’s first tweets?