Benedict XVI, as we all know, is stepping down from the office of the Pope after nearly 600 years of no one doing that. But even more stunning — brace yourself, Internet users! — is the fact that the Pope is going to disconnect completely by not tweeting anymore. That’s right, @pontifex will be shut down. But will anyone pick up the papal micro-blogging slack?
The Vatican suggests the same reason for the disconnect as for Benedict XVI’s abdication. The Pope, 88, has explained that old age and declining health mean he would not be able to perform the duties demanded by the office. And hey, Twitter isn’t always that easy to keep up with, either.
What the Vatican hasn’t said, however, is whether the Pope’s successor will make use of Twitter. In particular, would he use the same or a new account? It’s a big deal. Despite the few tweets he did make — 36 in total, the first of which was only from December — Pope Benedict XVI has amassed 1,573,791 followers as of the writing of this sentence. That’s less than, say, Lady Gaga, but it’s still a pretty impressive amount.
The Pope’s day of resignation is February 28, six days from now, and it’s hoped that he’ll at least give us a tweet goodbye. There is one thing we do know, though. Pope Gregory XII, the last Pope who stepped down from the office — in 1415 and for schismatic reasons (it’s complicated) — didn’t get anyone to be his Twitter successor, either.
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