The current Pope, 85-year-old Pope Benedict XVI, dropped a bombshell when he announced on February 10 that he was stepping down from his papal position – the last time a Pope stepped down was back in 1415 and in most cases a Pope assumes his position until death. Despite his conservative religious stance, the Pope was the first to embrace the digital age by opening up a Twitter account. What’s to come of @Pontifex now that he’s no longer the Pope? Vatican Radio announced that his Twitter account would be shut down.
The 1.5 million users that are following the Pope will be following one less person by 8 PM Vatican Time (CET) time on February 28, which coincides with the official exit from his position. Vatican Radio says that he’ll send out a final tweet before then.
The Pope is following eight other accounts – the Pope’s Twitter account in different languages including Italian, French, Arabic, and six others (including English of course). These accounts, which have a combined total of 1.3 million followers, will be also shut down.
“It seems unimaginable that one could continue to use a communication tool so popular and powerful during the ‘sede vacante’ period,” Vatican Radio said.
The Pope opened his Twitter account, which means “Pope” and “bridge builder,” in December. The lifespan of the account is coming to an end after just two months and at the time of this writing has just 36 tweets. Since the account was maintained by his papal aids over at the Vatican, and signed off by him, there may be no one to maintain the account anyway unless Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger (Benedict XVI’s birth name) decides to take up the @Pontifex Twitter account on his own.
The reason for the Pope’s resignation is left up for debate, and there are plenty of speculating in the media, the next Pope who is to succeed Benedict XVI, hasn’t been appointed yet. The Vatican Cardinals will be voting for the next Pope starting between 15 and 20 days once he resigns from his post on the 28th. We have to wonder if the next Pope would be interested in opening up a Twitter account for himself. And since the current account isn’t personalized, but rather “refers to the person of the pope,” there’s no reason why it couldn’t be assumed by whoever assumes the position.
According to Italian news agency ANSA, The Vatican says that every moment from of Benedict XVI’s last day will be recorded. Currently, there’s no indication that moments from his last day will be tweeted.