Skip to main content

Pope's Twitter account to close as he leaves office, Vatican Radio says

By Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
February 22, 2013 -- Updated 1309 GMT (2109 HKT)
Pope Benedict XVI clicks on a tablet to send his first twitter message at the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, December 12, 2012.
Pope Benedict XVI clicks on a tablet to send his first twitter message at the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, December 12, 2012.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • @Pontifex has gained well over 2 million followers since the pope first tweeted in December
  • Pope Benedict XVI announced on February 11 that he was resigning because of frail health
  • The pope, who stands down on February 28, is to retire into a life of seclusion
  • It's not clear if his successor, who will be chosen next month, will choose to tweet

(CNN) -- At the same time as Pope Benedict XVI leaves office on February 28, his Twitter presence as @Pontifex will also come to an end, according to Vatican Radio.

The news may come as a sad blow to the more than 2 million people who've signed up to follow his tweets in nine languages since his account was launched with fanfare two-and-a-half months ago.

About 1.5 million of those people follow the English language feed, with nearly 700,000 following him in Spanish and just short of 335,000 in Italian. About 22,500 people follow @Pontifex in Latin.

The account will be closed to coincide with the 85-year-old pope's formal departure from office at 8 p.m. local time, Vatican Radio said.

What some Catholics want in next pope
Where does an ex-pope go?
Could Pope Benedict be put on trial?
The pope joins Twitter

"It seems unimaginable that one could continue to use a communication tool so popular and powerful during the 'sede vacante' period," Vatican Radio said, referring to the time during which the seat will be empty.

"From choice, the Pontifex profile was not personalized, but it clearly refers to the person of the pope."

It's not yet clear whether whoever is chosen to succeed Benedict, who cited the frailty of age as the reason for his departure, will also use Twitter to reach out to some of the 1.5 billion Roman Catholics around the world.

On February 10, the day before the pope announced his shock resignation, @Pontifex tweeted: "We must trust in the mighty power of God's mercy. We are all sinners, but His grace transforms us and makes us new."

Only two tweets have been posted since in English, both relating to the Lent period.

According to Vatican Radio, Benedict is likely to offer his last tweet on February 27, the same day that he will give his final general audience to huge crowds expected to gather in St. Peter's Square in Vatican City.

If not then, perhaps one final thought will come from Benedict on February 28, "before retiring into silence," it suggests.

The pontiff is considering changing the Vatican constitution to allow a vote for his successor to begin before March 15, Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said Wednesday.

Existing rules say the Roman Catholic Church's cardinals should start voting on a replacement from 15 to 20 days after the papal throne becomes vacant. With Benedict's resignation due to start on February 28, the cardinals' conclave ordinarily would start no sooner than March 15.

But Lombardi has said that because Benedict was leaving the papacy through resignation rather than death, the Vatican would explore the possibility of selecting a new pope sooner than normally prescribed.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
March 13, 2014 -- Updated 1631 GMT (0031 HKT)
Not a jot of doctrine has changed in the year since Francis became Pope. But there's more than one way to measure his impact. Just ask some of the faithful in the country's most Catholic city.
February 22, 2014 -- Updated 1501 GMT (2301 HKT)
Pope Francis created 19 new cardinals in a ceremony in the Vatican's St. Peter's Basilica -- the first such appointments since he was elected pontiff last March.
March 13, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
"The spring evening in which Pope Francis was elected is an apt symbol of the beginning of his papacy and the years that will follow," writes Fr. Joel Camaya.
February 14, 2014 -- Updated 1605 GMT (0005 HKT)
In a gesture toward the romance of Valentine's Day, Pope Francis gave his advice on how to have a happy marriage before thousands of young engaged couples.
January 16, 2014 -- Updated 1912 GMT (0312 HKT)
A senior Vatican official acknowledged Thursday there is "no excuse" for child sex abuse, as he and others were grilled by a U.N. committee about the Catholic Church's handling of pedophile priests.
March 12, 2014 -- Updated 2010 GMT (0410 HKT)
Take a look at Pope Francis' first year in photos with our gallery.
December 25, 2013 -- Updated 0922 GMT (1722 HKT)
Pope Francis rang in his first Christmas at the Vatican with a Christmas Eve Mass preaching a message of love and forgiveness.
November 7, 2013 -- Updated 2343 GMT (0743 HKT)
It was the embrace that melted hearts worldwide.
July 8, 2013 -- Updated 1442 GMT (2242 HKT)
On the first pastoral visit of his papacy, Pope Francis shunned protocol and politics on a visit to the tiny island of Lampedusa off the coast of Sicily.
April 3, 2013 -- Updated 0959 GMT (1759 HKT)
On Easter Sunday, Pope Francis kisses and hugs disabled boy lifted up in the crowd.
April 11, 2013 -- Updated 1609 GMT (0009 HKT)
With the new pope himself a trained scientist, could the timing could be right for a new era of cooperation between the Vatican and science?
March 16, 2013 -- Updated 1856 GMT (0256 HKT)
Pope Francis is being painted as a humble and simple man, but his past is tinged with controversy.
March 14, 2013 -- Updated 1409 GMT (2209 HKT)
One of the first questions many people ask when they start a new job is: What type of car will I get?
March 14, 2013 -- Updated 1155 GMT (1955 HKT)
Call him Pope Francis, the pontiff of firsts.
March 14, 2013 -- Updated 1158 GMT (1958 HKT)
Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina is known as a humble man, a capable administrator and -- as expected of a new pope -- a man of great faith.
March 14, 2013 -- Updated 1725 GMT (0125 HKT)
Catholic faithful from Latin America cheered the historic election of the first pope from the region Wednesday.
March 14, 2013 -- Updated 2241 GMT (0641 HKT)
St. Francis of Assisi, after whom Pope Francis has taken his name, captures the spirit of many Catholics.
ADVERTISEMENT