Popes tend to communicate with members of the Roman Catholic Church through long-worded encyclicals and apostolic exhortations, but current pontiff Benedict XVI has already made history as the first pope to issue a message via Twitter. The Pope will presumably be doing that a lot more of that as the Vatican announced Thursday he was to get his own Twitter handle.
The Associated Press reports that Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi made the announcement Thursday, but most reports seem to acknowledge that Benedict XVI, 85, is unlikely to be doing the tweeting himself. Though the Pope did tweet back in June to launch the Vatican news portal, he does not regularly use a computer, tablet, or smartphone. This will be his first personal social media account. In fact, it will be the first social media account for any pope.
Lady Gaga is currently the most followed person on Twitter with 31,042,879 followers. Pope Benedict is the spiritual leader of 1.1 billion Catholics worldwide. Details on what his Twitter handle would be were not released, but the Washington Post reported that the information would be made known when the account is launched, possibly before the end of the year.
The Pope’s Twitter membership will not be the first for a man of his stature. The Archbishop of Canterbury, leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, has a Twitter account, as does the Dalai Lama. As far as world leaders go, President Barack Obama is the fifth-most followed account on the site, dispensing presidential messages 140 characters at a time.
Benedict XVI has urged members of the Church hierarchy to utilize social media more often in an attempt to reach out to Catholics in the digital age.