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The Pope Signs Up For Twitter

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe’s Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

Head of the Roman Catholic Church becomes a member of the Twitterati

The Pope has joined Twitter and will be tweeting under the @Pontifex handle, despite some of his reservations about the Internet.

A Twitter spokesperson told TechWeekEurope the account was genuine, even though it did not have the official ‘verified’ tag to certify it belonged to Benedict XVI. “It’s coming,” the spokesperson said.

The account has made its impact felt already, amassing close to 100,000 followers, although no tweets have been issued yet. Reports have indicated the first messages will be posted later this month, and will look to respond to questions sent in by other Twitter users.

Twitless - twitter down © FotoliaThe Pope on Twitter

The Pope’s arrival on Twitter came after he warned, in January 2011, people were in danger of alienating themselves by excessive use of the Web. “It is important to remember virtual contact must not take the place of direct human contact with people at every level of our lives,” he said.

However, a year before he told priests to embrace Web 2.0 technologies to spread the word of god.

Onlookers have warned that whilst Benedict XVI will be able to use the platform to express the views of the Catholic church and potentially attract more followers, it also gives people the chance to criticise the Pope in an open environment.

“Twitter is renowned for making people more approachable, which could be a double-edged sword for the Vatican – on the one hand, his supporters will see him as a more approachable figure and his words will spread easier across the internet, but on the other hand it opens him up to criticism and abuse,” Dane Cobain, social media executive at PR company nobull, told TechWeekEurope.

“We all know that people are less than hesitant to come forward with strong opinions on social sites, and it’s interesting to see how the Vatican will react…  of course, it’s unlikely that the Pope himself will be behind the keyboard.”

Other religious leaders are using Twitter. The Dalai Lama is already a member, and has almost six million followers. His most recent tweet read: “Scientists are discovering that while anger and hatred eat into our immune system, warm-heartedness and compassion are good for our health.”

“My guess is that The Pope, like the Dalai Lama, will focus on using Twitter as a broadcasting platform, rather than a place to engage with fans and followers,” Cobain added.

“It’s a step in the right direction for the papacy, which will make them much more approachable and relevant in the social era – let’s just hope they have a proficient social team to guide the campaign.”

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