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London - The Pope has tweeted. Or as they might say in the Vatican: Pontifex Maximus titiavit.
Inside the Pope Paul VI Hall, a rapturous audience cheered as Benedict XVI laid the papal finger on the tablet device before him to send a blessing to his 1.2 million followers.
But on the internet, the response was more divided, as non-believers took the opportunity to “troll” the Vicar of Christ about his late embrace of social media.
One user pondered: “If the Pope makes a typo, is the typo infallible?” Others spotted that the pontiff was following no other users of the site - except versions of his own feed.
Some ribbed the 85-year-old for appearing to miss the correct key for sending his first tweet. Luckily Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli was on hand to step in and post the message in a timely fashion.
“There's nothing really there that we wouldn't have anticipated,” said Monsignor Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. “You have the mix of the frivolous and the cantankerous, but there are also some extraordinarily interesting and engaging questions.”
There were also questions as to why his first tweet (“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”) was not available in Latin (Vobiscum, cari amici, mihi libet per Titiationem conloqui. gratias vobis pro comissimis responsis ago. vos omnes ex animo benedico).
Tweets by His Holiness, which are issued in eight different languages across eight separate accounts (@pontifex, which is Latin for Pope), come in the form of questions and answers. Among his assurances were: “We can be certain that a believer is never alone,” and he advised followers to “offer everything you do to the Lord”. It is thought he still prefers to communicate in longhand.
The Pope used Twitter to send a blessing via the Vatican news portal for its launch in June last year, but the creation of his own account suggests the Catholic Church is beginning to take social media more seriously.
Rocco Palmo, a Catholic writer who chaired the first Vatican conference on new media, said: “The scepticism has gone now. There used to be parts of the Church where I was radioactive, but now a lot of bishops and priests are using Twitter, and even more are on Facebook.”
The president of Atheism UK, Mark Embleton, was unimpressed by the Pope's opening messages. “However, if his subsequent tweets are 'It's OK to use contraception', or 'homosexuality is not a sin', then that would be newsworthy,” he said. - The Independent