The Pope Tweets with You: Benedict XVI Joins the Twitterverse

My piece on the Pope’s first Tweet has just been published by Time.

At first glance, the Pope taking to Twitter has the taste of anachronism: an 85-year-old pontiff, who still writes in longhand, tapping out messages 140 characters at a time. But when Benedict XVI sent out his first tweet on Wednesday, soon after his weekly audience in St. Peters’ Square, Vatican officials believe he will be following a long tradition of Christian communication. “This is not a new approach,” says Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture. “What’s new is the technique.” As for the long awaited tweet, it read: “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.”

On Wednesday, those first tweets will be answers to questions solicited from Twitter users under the hashtag #askpontifex. Cardinal Ravasi’s office is one of several charged with looking at submissions from #askpontifex. As a result, some of his staff have been screening tweets that range from the sincere to the buffoonish, from the political to the vulgar. (Some, referring the Catholic Church’s child abuse scandal, are both.) While some have worried that wading into the wild — often dirty — world of the Internet will demean the office of the Pope, Ravasi and his team see it as part of the pontiff’s pastoral mission to engage with all segments of society. “I see the Internet as a playground, and I see the church as playing the role of a responsible adult,” says Richard Rouse, the Cardinal’s spokesperson.

Read the rest.