Pope hits 40 mil­lion mark on Twit­ter

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

VATICAN CITY: The pope has racked up 40 mil­lion fol­low­ers on Twit­ter, the Vatican said yes­ter­day, un­der­lin­ing the Catholic leader’s sta­tus as one of the world’s big­gest so­cial me­dia play­ers. The to­tal, spread across ac­counts in nine lan­guages, leaves Fran­cis neck and neck with his oc­ca­sional on­line spar­ring part­ner US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump (40.3 mil­lion fol­low­ers), but still trail­ing the likes of Barack Obama (95 mil­lion) and Katy Perry (104 mil­lion).

A net nine mil­lion new Twit­ter users have fol­lowed the var­i­ous @pon­tifex ac­counts in the last year, ac­cord­ing to the Vatican, which views the mi­cro-blog­ging site as in­creas­ingly im­por­tant for com­mu­ni­cat­ing with the faith­ful and non-be­liev­ers. Fran­cis, 80, has be­come a star of the plat­form de­spite the dry, re­li­gious na­ture of most of his tweets. His use of Twit­ter could also seem at odds with him reg­u­larly urg­ing young peo­ple to give their smart­phones a rest in fa­vor of real-world com­mu­ni­ca­tion. The Ar­gen­tine pon­tiff’s Span­ish ac­count has most fol­low­ers (14.6 mil­lion), fol­lowed by English (14 mil­lion).

A hugely pop­u­lar Latin one has 843,000 (more than the Ger­man or Ara­bic feeds), much to the de­light of the an­cient lan­guage’s dwin­dling band of teach­ers. Fran­cis, who also counts five mil­lion fol­low­ers on In­sta­gram, is not the first pope to tweet. His pre­de­ces­sor Bene­dict XVI started in De­cem­ber 2012, just months be­fore he re­tired be­cause of fail­ing health. Tweets in the name of the pope ap­pear on av­er­age just un­der once a day. “God does not dis­ap­point! He has placed hope in our hearts so that it can blos­som and bear fruit,” he wrote in his lat­est mis­sive. Hard-to-con­trol dis­cus­sions

The cen­tral im­por­tance of prayer is a re­cur­ring theme and some mes­sages are barely com­pre­hen­si­ble to non-Catholics. But it is not all the­ol­ogy. The im­me­di­acy of the so­cial medium also of­fers the leader of the world’s 1.3 bil­lion Ro­man Catholics a plat­form to re­act quickly to global events, or voice his views on the so­cial is­sues of the day. One early tweet re­in­forced his anti-cap­i­tal­ist cre­den­tials, stat­ing: “If money and ma­te­rial things be­come the cen­ter of our lives, they seize us and make us slaves.”

There have also been some that of­fer home­spun ad­vice, such as: “I can­not imag­ine a Chris­tian who does not know how to smile.” The Vatican’s Twit­ter op­er­a­tion is not with­out risks given the hard-to-con­trol na­ture of dis­cus­sions on the site: some papal tweets are greeted with sar­cas­tic, mock­ing or even ob­scene replies that make shock­ing read­ing for some of the de­vout. But the Church has deemed the in­ter­net has to be em­braced and re­search sug­gests that has been the right call.

— AFP

VATICAN CITY: Pope Fran­cis greets faith­ful as he arrives for his weekly gen­eral au­di­ence in St Peter’s square yes­ter­day at the Vatican.

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