Pope Benedict XVI has officially entered the Twitterverse, sending out the first tweet from his personal account, @pontifex at approximately 11:30am European Standard Time (8:30AM EST) today.
“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,” the tweet 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.— Benedict XVI (@Pontifex) December 12, 2012
His Holiness has made six subsequent tweets within three hours of the original tweet, the latest coming around 5:00pm ECT. The tweets were all questions and answers sent in by followers as part of a contest launched by the Vatican during the Vatican’s official announcement of the @pontifex account, with the final question posed by a “mom from the United States.”
How can we celebrate the Year of Faith better in our daily lives?— Benedict XVI (@Pontifex) December 12, 2012
By speaking with Jesus in prayer, listening to what he tells you in the Gospel and looking for him in those in need— Benedict XVI (@Pontifex) December 12, 2012
How can faith in Jesus be lived in a world without hope?— Benedict XVI (@Pontifex) December 12, 2012
We can be certain that a believer is never alone. God is the solid rock upon which we build our lives and his love is always faithful— Benedict XVI (@Pontifex) December 12, 2012
Any suggestions on how to be more prayerful when we are so busy with the demands of work, families and the world?— Benedict XVI (@Pontifex) December 12, 2012
Offer everything you do to the Lord, ask his help in all the circumstances of daily life and remember that he is always beside you— Benedict XVI (@Pontifex) December 12, 2012
The Pope’s English-language account had gathered more than 843,000 followers by the publication of this article. Within the four hours since the Pope’s first tweet, nearly 39,000 people had retweeted the blessing and another 12,000 had marked it as a favorite tweet.
The initial tweet went out during the Pope’s weekly general audience, and the Italian translation was also flashed on jumbo screens in the Pope Paul VI Hall inside the Vatican. Tweets from the @pontifex account are simultaneously sent out in eight languages, including Italian, English, and Spanish.
Unsurprisingly, the Pope’s decision to join Twitter has already been mocked and criticized by some. Comedian Jon Stewart and the newspaper The Onion both poked fun at the idea that His Holiness owns an iPad, and the Vatican was spammed with tweets remarking on the church’s clerical sex scandals.
This is technically not the first time that the Pope has written a tweet. He sent out a tweet over a year ago using a generic Vatican account to launch the Holy See’s information portal. And while His Holiness himself published the first tweet, it is believed that his staffers will send out future tweets for him.