A coup for Twitter as the Pope tweets – and not in Latin

@Pontifex

Dalai Lama still on top – on twitter at least

This week, Tweeters welcomed Pope Benedict XVI into The Twittersphere.

In front of a crowd in the Vatican Audience Hall, the head of the Roman Catholic Church used an iPad 4 to send 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.”

The Pope will be tweeting in 8 languages but will not be following anyone other than himself or re-tweeting.

Spreading the word

The 85-year old Supreme Pontiff’s decision to leap out of the pulpit and into a twitter handle – @Pontifex – was a smart move for an ancient establishment concerned about emptying pews in Europe and the US. The Roman Catholic Church is often criticised for being out of touch. Cardinal Carlo Martini, once tipped as a future Pope, described it as being “pompous” and “200 years behind the times.”

Less pomp and circumstance, more accessible and engaged

Benedict XVI communicating with his flock via social media can be considered a small but definitive step towards shedding this reputation. His tweets offer insights into the word of God in 140 characters max directly to – at the time of writing – 1,037,835 followers on their smartphones and desktops. This is a far cry from the lofty theologian dealing with intricate theses hidden behind the walls of the Vatican.

The Church’s ‘Decree of the Apostolate of the Laity’ dictates that “The Church was founded for the purpose of spreading the kingdom of Christ throughout the earth.” One third of the world’s population is now using the internet. So, what better way to disseminate a message to individuals worldwide than with social media?

The Pope needs to get his social media strategy up to scratch, however, to take full advantage. The 14th Dalai Lama of Tibetan Buddhism and the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, who joined Twitter in 2010, has over 5 million followers, and currently princess of pop, Brittany Spears, boasts 22,465,287 followers which is roughly 22 times more than that of the Pope. Maybe a few re-tweets wouldn’t go amiss, after all…

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