By Junno Arocho
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 3, 2012 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See Press Office officially announced Pope Benedict XVI’s presence on Twitter. The Holy Father is set to send out his first tweet on December 12, Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, under the username @pontifex.
Presenting the initiative to the press was Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office; Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communication; Professor Gian Maria Vian, director of L’Osservatore Romano; and Dr. Greg Burke, Media Advisor to the Vatican Secretary of State. Also present at the press conference was Dr. Claire Diaz-Ortiz, Director of Social Innovation for Twitter.
Archbishop Celli noted the significance of the Pope’s presence on Twitter was not so much an emphasis on the modern world nor a tribute to technology, but more importantly a means to show that technology “is put in our hands to announce the Gospel.”
“The desire of this Pontiff is to enter into dialogue with the man and woman of today, and to speak with them in places where they are found,” Archbishop Celli said. Recalling the question as to how can the Pope evangelize in 140 characters, which is the limit of characters for an individual tweet, Archbishop Celli said that while it is a challenge, it is not a significant setback.
“The problem is not 140 characters; the main concern is to give profound human expression to the words that are given,” Archbishop Celli said. The head of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications stated that Twitter would give the Holy Father the opportunity to express what Archbishop Celli described as “pearls of wisdom”.
Greg Burke, Media Advisor for the Vatican Secretary of State, stated that it would be surprising if the Pope was not present on Twitter given that it is “an excellent means” of communication. Burke also noted the dual meaning of the Pope’s user name.
“@Pontifex not only means ‘pope’, it also means ‘bridge builder’, which suggests unity with all men of good will,” he said.
Burke stated that the Pope’s Twitter account will allow followers to ask the Pope questions and engage in dialogue with the Supreme Pontiff. The first tweets will be answers to questions on faith from followers who send the Holy Father questions under the hashtag #askpontifex.
Pope Benedict XVI will send out tweets in various languages as well. Among the languages are Spanish (@pontifex_es), Italian (@pontifex_it), Portuguese (@pontifex_pt), German (@pontifex_de), Polish (@pontifex_pl), Arabic (@pontifex_ar), and French (@pontifex_fr). Other languages could be added later on in the future.
While he wasn’t sure how many tweets the Holy Father would be sending on a given day, Burke assured that every tweet will come straight from Pope Benedict XVI.
Other initiatives announced by the Pontifical Council for Social Communication would be an upcoming YouTube page for news.va, an e-book to coincide with the Year of Faith, and a mobile app, called “The Pope App” which includes news, live broadcast of the Pope’s addresses, and live webcam feeds to St. Peter’s, Castelgandolfo and other papal sites. The app is due to be released this month for iOS and will be available for Android in January.