When you wake up tomorrow morning, the Catholic Church will have taken another bold step into the era of new media.
That’s because Pope Benedict XVI’s new Twitter account will be activated—so you’ll be able to “follow” the Pope and receive brief, up-to-the-minute news from the Vatican in real time.
At a press conference scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Rome time (that’s 5:30 a.m. Eastern Time here in the U.S.), the Pope’s Twitter account will be officially launched at a press conference in the Holy See Press Office. Present for the occasion will be a number of familiar Vatican communicators whom I met last year at the Vatican Blogfest: Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications; Monsignor Paul Tighe, secretary of the same dicastery; and Father Federico Lombardi, S.J., director of the Holy See Press Office. Also present will be the editor of L’Osservatore Romano, Professor Gian Maria Vian, and the Holy See Secretariat of State’s American-born media advisor, Greg Burke.
Despite all the hullabaloo, this is not really the first time that Pope Benedict has “tweeted.” I wrote about his first tweet back in June 2011, at the launch of the new Vatican website news.va.
The Church’s foray into the world of social media has been a frequent topic on my blog; but check out this older post, on blogging bishops and the impact of blogs, Twitter and other media on the new evangelization.
So what will the Pope’s “handle” be on Twitter? I’m not sure, but I hope it’s easier than the last two: in June, he launched the Vatican’s new website for English-speaking nations utilizing the Twitter handle @news_va_en. Last February, and for each of the forty days of Lent, the Pope released an encouraging message each day in English, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, French and German. For the Lenten messages, he used an even longer Twitter handle: @Pope2YouVatican.
UPDATE: It’s @Pontifex! His first message of welcome is being sent out in various languages; and as of 7:00 a.m. Eastern Time, he’s got some 21,000 followers.