Pope Benedict XVI has started tweeting:
Dear friends, I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart.— Benedict XVI (@Pontifex) December 12, 2012
It's a pretty big deal, apparently, but the pontif doesn't yet have the medium completely mastered. Like a lot of tweeters-come-lately, he sees it as a one-way medium. He's got 808,000 followers, but he's only following seven accounts -- his own in several different languages.
But many clergy see this as the beginning of a new age, according to the Washington Post's On Faith blog, where Matt Archbold of the National Catholic Register asks some pertinent questions:
If the pope "follows you" doesn't that really set the Church hierarchy upside down? Do I really want that kind of responsibility? I don't even have a mitre.
And if you get blocked by the pope is that a 21st century form of excommunication? Are we really about to see the birth of the excommunitweet? Because that would actually be pretty awesome.
And how about papal emoticons? What will they look like?
There may be some who snicker, seeing Pontifex as a bit of an anachronism in that the 2,000 year old church is implementing 21st century technology. But I think the church has always spoken to people where they are. And let's remember Jesus may have been the greatest tweeter ever. Have you ever noticed that all the Beatitudes are 140 characters or less?
And where does the Pope's follower total land him on the Twitter row of fame? Not even close to the top. Lady Gaga has over 32 million in her flock. In fact, the top four Twitter accounts are singers. Number 5 is Barack Obama.
But none of them gets applause just for touching the screen.
Still who is the next closest to his total, with only 7 tweets (as of this posting).