Tweet Jesus! Pope opens a Twitter account

STAND by with bated breath … Ratzi is due to air his thoughts on Twitter on December 12, and thereafter will be tweeting like a mad thing.

Although he hasn’t even started tweeting yet, Ratzinger already has over 411,000 followers and the number’s rising fast

According to Vatican sources, his own personal Twitter account has been created:

To help the Church directly engage with believers and non-believers and to encourage the faithful already using and considering using new social media.

According to this report, the Pope’s new Twitter handle is @Pontifex.

When it becomes active, Twitter users be able ask “the Holy Father” questions on matters of faith.

Addressing a crowded Vatican press conference yesterday, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, said the Holy Father’s presence on Twitter:

Is a concrete expression of his conviction that the Church must be present in the digital arena.

The initiative, he added, expresses a:

Desire of the Pope to enter into a dialogue with men and women of today and to meet them where they are.

Msgr Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, stressed that what’s important about this initiative is “not really about how we make use of new technologies” or about the Vatican being at the “cutting edge” of technology, but about how the Church can be:

Effectively present in the digital sphere … It’s not so much about the use of the technology as about appreciating the potential that this offers for reaching more people.

Initial tweets will be made during Wednesday general audiences, but future tweets may appear at other times. The Pope, whose account will be certified, won’t be physically typing the tweets, but the Vatican stressed they will all come from him. Said Greg Burke, senior media adviser to the Vatican’s secretary of state:

All the tweets are the Pope’s words; nobody is going to be putting words into the Pope’s mouth.

He explained that the handle @Pontifex was chosen because:

It means bridge-builder and at the same time suggests unity and hope – unity not only with Catholics, but all men and women of good will who want to hear the message and have open minds and open hearts.

Asked about their content, Burke said:

The Pope will tweet about whatever the Pope wants to tweet about; it will always be a spiritual message.

The Vatican also announced it will also be launching another new communications tool: an app for smartphones and tablets that allows subscribers to watch live video feeds from the Vatican and access all Vatican news sources, such as Vatican Radio and News.va.

Simply called “The Pope App,” it will also contain recent images of the Pope and live camera feeds of the Vatican. iPhone and iPad users will be able to download the application next week. It will be available to Android users in January.

While Vatican is pulling out all the stops on the technological front, Turkey appears to be retreating ever faster into Islamic fundamentalism.

Today we learned that the country’s broadcasting regulator is fining a television channel, CNBC-e more than £18,000 for insulting religious values after it aired an episode of The Simpsons which shows God taking orders from the devil.

According to this report, RTÜK explained that the fine was necessary because the episode was:

Making fun of God, encouraging the young people to exercise violence by showing the murders as God’s orders and encouraging them to start drinking alcohol on New Year’s Eve night.

One of the characters is abusing another one’s religious belief to make him commit murders. The Bible is publicly burned in one scene and God and the Devil are shown in human bodies.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, the episode also shows God serving the Devil coffee.

Commented Mehmet Yilmaz, a columnist for the Hurriyet newspaper:

I wonder what the script writers will do when they hear that the jokes on their show are taken seriously and trigger fines in a country called Turkey.

Evoking a popular Turkish stereotype of a pious government supporter, he added:

Maybe they will add an almond-moustached RTÜK expert to the series.

Hat tip: Peter and BarrieJohn (Turkey report)