The leader of the world's Catholics has sent his first messages to his hundreds of thousands of (Twitter) followers.
Earlier this month, the Vatican revealed the Pope's official Twitter account, @pontifex -- an attempt to engage with, among other people, some of the more than a billion Catholics around the world. Early this morning, that account began tweeting.
This was the pope's first tweet, which doubled as a digital blessing:
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
The reactions to that first tweet varied:
@pontifex God bless you Papa-- Eileen Blackwell (@12meadow) December 12, 2012
@pontifex Greetings, Trifelge Putinard. Our humble reverences are with you in your calufrijulous extriplation. Glory, oh Bright One.-- Anemone of the State (@x7o) December 12, 2012
@pontifex right on bro-- rsidney (@rdotsidney) December 12, 2012
The Pope's message itself was, you'll note, delivered in English, rather than Latin or Italian or German or Spanish or ... anything else. While the @pontifex account uses English, seven other accounts -- @pontifex_de (German), @pontifex_es (Spanish), @pontifex_pt (Portuguese), @pontifex_pl (Polish), @pontifex_il (Italian), @pontifex_fr (French), and @pontifex_ar (Arabic) -- tweet in seven other languages. And, this morning, the Pope delivered the same sentiment of friendship and gratitude in each of those languages.
The Pope has so far tweeted twice more after that first message -- each time, in each language. First, he asked a question:
How can we celebrate the Year of Faith better in our daily lives?-- Benedict XVI (@Pontifex) December 12, 2012
Then, he offered an answer to that question:
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
Despite the rapid succession of these tweets, we probably shouldn't expect that the Pontiff will be over-tweeting, over-sharing, telling us about the delicious sandwich he had for lunch today, etc. As Monsignor Paul Tighe, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications -- basically, "the Pope's social media guy" -- told Bloomberg BusinessWeek, the absence of papal tweets will serve as its own kind of message to followers:
Silence is an integral part of communications. If you're not not silent, you're not listening. He feels that if we use these well, we can be listening. Social media gives you a means to listen. This has extraordinary potential in helping to figure out how people are interpreting your message. The Pope feels new media can also help to foster attitudes of silence and reflection and teach people meditation. He also said that it's possible, using very small phrases, to communicate important truths.