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Pope's Twitter account to fall silent with resignation

Cardinals to stop social media activity during conclave

19 February, 13:12
Pope's Twitter account to fall silent with resignation (ANSA) - Rome, February 19 - Pope Benedict XVI's twitter handle, @pontifex, will be closed when the pontiff steps down on February 28, and its eight-language tweets will grind to a halt.

The Pope's Twitter feed, launched December 12, is followed by 2.5 million people across the globe.

Benedict's tweets are written in Italian, Spanish, German, Arabic, English and other languages, including Latin. There is no historical precedent, not only for the resignation of a pope in modern times, but what is to be done with the pope's Twitter account. However, Vatican sources say that Benedict will send his last tweet on February 28, his final day as pontiff before he departs from the Vatican by helicopter for Castel Gandolfo outside Rome.

Apart from traditional media including Vatican Radio, Vatican Television, the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, and the Holy See's press office, the Catholic Church has been using social media such as Facebook, blogs and Twitter in recent years.

While the pope's handle did not have his name on it to keep it deliberately non-customized, it is inextricably linked to Benedict both as an individual and as head of the Church.

As Pope Benedict XVI headed into his penultimate general audience Wednesday in the Paul VI Hall of the Vatican, he sent out a quick tweet.

"In the time we begin Lent, let us renew our commitment to conversion by giving more space to God".

The conclave of cardinals who will gather in the Vatican to choose the pope's successor in mid-March will not only have telephones and mobile phones silenced, for social-media savvy clergy, their Twitter and Facebook accounts will be muzzled as well. Among those with an active social media following are Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Angelo Scola - both considered contenders for the papacy.

Not a tweet will be heard from behind the Vatican walls until the new pope is elected and he decides how to pursue Benedict's social media legacy.

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