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Is the New Pope Using Social Media?

Posted by JenThorpe at 2:24 AM on March 16, 2013

PontifexWe live in a world where the Pope can Tweet. Pope Benedict XVI was on Twitter. His handle was @Pontifex which sent out Tweets in English. There was also @Pontifex_ es (which was in Spanish and was the one I was following). All told, there were 8 different language versions of @Pontifex on Twitter.

Pope Benedict XVI was the first Pope to use Twitter. Although he was not the first Pope to retire, he was the first do so in the past 600 years. This brings up the question: What does one do with the Twitter accounts of a retired Pope? This was not a question that anyone had to think about before, as there was no Twitter, or internet, 600 years ago.

Here’s what ended up happening. Pope Benedict XVI decided that the next Pope would have to decide for himself whether or not he wanted to Tweet. The @Pontifex accounts became inactive during the interim between Pope Benedict XVI retiring and the election of his successor, Pope Francis I. The Tweets sent out by the retired Pope were deleted.

On March 13, 2013, the @Pontifex account(s) sent out identical Tweets in Latin that said: HABEMUS PAPAM FRANCISCIUM. Now, was this sent out by Pope Francis I, or by someone else in the Vatican on his behalf? The word on the internet is that it was from the newly elected Pope. Now, we wait to see if he decides to continue to Tweet.

Meanwhile, several cyber squatters swooped in to buy every possible iteration of Pope Francis domain names. That was probably to be expected. The unexpected story, though, involves a Chicago lawyer named Chris Connors who somehow bought the domain name popefrancis.com from GoDaddy.com in 2010 – long before there was any expectation that there would be a Pope Francis I. Lawyer Chris Connors has started the process of giving the domain name to the newly elected Pope.

As far as I can tell, Pope Francis I is not on Facebook (at least, not yet). There is a Pope Francis page written entirely in English that says “Not an official page”. There also is one called Cadenal Jorge Bergoglio that entirely in Spanish. It was set up by two women to respectfully support him, and is also not an official page.