When the Italian media began to report today that Pope Benedict XVI would be resigning on February 28, many of @Pontifex’s 1.5 million Twitter followers turned to his account for confirmation. They were greeted with crickets.
Former New York Times editor Jim Roberts, a popular Twitter presence, was stumped by the silence.
What’s a Twitter account for if you can’t drop bombshell news on it? @pontifex is silent on Pope’s resignation.
— Jim Roberts (@nycjim) February 11, 2013
We must trust in the mighty power of God’s mercy. We are all sinners, but His grace transforms us and makes us new.
— Benedict XVI (@Pontifex) February 10, 2013
Benedict XVI’s assistants have been the driving force behind the Pope’s tweets since the first papal post in December and the account hasn’t been used for announcements thus far. Reading through the tweets, @Pontifex has served to share prayers, blessings and spiritual reminders, mainly.
The Pope isn’t the only one to have a widely followed Twitter account go quiet after a big announcement. This fall, after Mitt Romney conceded the presidential race to Barack Obama, his account remained dormant for four days before efforting one final tweet thanking the former governor’s staff and supporters. It has remained silent for Romney’s 1.6 million followers ever since.
Twitter has become the most immediate and intimate press release of our time. TV shows are canceled by it and baby announcements are made with it, but when it comes to papal resignations, we’re not quite there yet.