Will Social Media Step Up as Pope Steps Down?

For the first time in nearly 600 years, a Pope will resign. Pope Benedict announced Monday that he will step down due to his age and health affecting his strength. He is now 85.

Pope Benedict XVI to resign.

Pope Benedict is a trailblazer it seems, achieving many firsts during his time in the Vatican. On Dec. 12, he became the first Pope to join Twitter (@Pontifex). People now have the chance to ask Benedict XVI questions using the hashtag #AskPontifex.

Many spiritual and religious leaders have joined Twitter over the past few years, making themselves and their words more accessible than ever before. Since the Pope will resign Feb.28, it will be interesting to see how the Vatican responds to social media coverage and queries.

Just with today’s announcement, @Pontifex has gained more than 21,000 new followers. The Vatican controls various accounts for the Pope in different languages and curates the messages to sort which ones to which he should respond.

The issue is who will take over next and how will they utilize social media. It seems even with the un-engaging tweets from the Pope, he is still giving many celebrities and social stars a run for their money. Will the new prelate be as social online? How will the Vatican make the transition?

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3 Responses to Will Social Media Step Up as Pope Steps Down?

  1. Minda Elliott says:

    As a Catholic, this news was very surprising to hear. I honestly had no idea a Pope, the highest position in the Catholic Church, was allowed to step down at all. I always thought of being the Pope as less of a job and more of a relationship. When you become the Pope the idea has always been that you are essentially saying, “’til death do us part.”

    I’m still unsure of what to think, but at the moment I believe Pope Benedict XVI has done the right thing in acknowledging that he is no longer fit to govern the Catholic Church. I think this event will have a lot of social media presence because this has never happened while we’ve had televisions let alone social media. I agree with you in that it will be interesting to see whether the next Pope will be as contemporary as Pope Benedict or as present in the social networking world.

  2. Kelsey Pfeffer says:

    Thanks for sharing Amy, I had no idea the Pope had a Twitter account. You touched on how the Pope is engaging with people on a more personal level because he now has Twitter. What a great, free tool that the Vatican can use to interact with people from around the world. I’m interested to see if this will continue, and honestly hope that it does. So many celebrities have made breaking news because of what they post on social media and I hope that the Pope can share positive and encouraging messages through this medium.

  3. Kayla Pologa says:

    I wondered if someone was going to call this into question, great take on this Amy!

    I have actually been to the Vatican so this whole situation interests me. Having seen the city and somewhat of how it functions — in a VERY conservative manner — this situation is really a tough one to get a grasp on.

    That said, I find it extremely surprising that the Pope would even have a Twitter account, given the traditional values and nature of the city’s foundation. However, on the other edge of this double-edge sword I really think it is a smart move. Obviously, with such a strong and loyal following this is a BRILLIANT move to convey information to the religious followers in the quickest and arguably most efficient way possible. Getting the Pope and his affiliates on these sites will only further garner interest for what is currently going on within the city and keep a communications line open for further situations.

    As you said, the Twitter handle gained 21,000 followers just since the announcement of the resignation, so obviously, the Vatican knows what it is doing and where to go to get the most attention.

    The use of Twitter will also offer a tool for crisis control that may arise from this situation and serve as a strong transitional tool to gain popularity and acceptance for whomever will replace Pope Benedict XVI.

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