Summus pipiabit Pontifex!


3 December: His account is up and running: @Pontifex


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On Monday we will find out what the Pope’s new Twitter handle is.

There will be a press conference in Rome on Monday to reveal more details about what His Holiness of our Lord is going to be doing (read: what some others will be doing for him).

Were I still in the press corps there I would ask: “How often will the Holy Father be tweeting? How much does he intend to compose the tweets himself?  Will he write them long hand and then have someone do it for him? Will they be simultaneously in other languages?  What details did you have to work out with Twitter before this could happen?”

I am pretty sure Pope Benedict doesn’t use a smart phone.  Didn’t someone give him an iPad?  I think Vatican Radio gave him an iPod.

I have other questions.

Pope Benedict has sent one tweet already, for the launch of the site  The new venture will be from his own, official account.

I suspect the Pope won’t be tweeting in Latin, though that would be great.  Maybe his first Tweet?  But it would have to followed by the same text in the usual languages.  Babel redivivus.  Latin is denser, however.  Something to consider.  Latin for “tweet, v.” should be something like pipio or titio, and “tweet, n.” pipiatum or titiatum, and Twitter pipiatio or titiatio.  I prefer the “p” line of thought, to the “t” here.  I had a post and a poll on this, by the way, HERE.

Here is the POLL again.

The Latin for "tweet" and "Twitter" should be based on:

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One can only speculate about what handle he will use.

I will add, finally, that I don’t think Popes should tweet.  There, I said it.  Yes, I know about social media and the New Evangelization.  They didn’t ask me my opinion.  So, if it is going to happen, I might as well embrace it.

Choose your best answer and give your reasons in the combox.  You don’t have to be registered to vote, but you do have to have an approved registration to post.

Should Popes tweet?

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Benedict XVI, New Evangelization, The Drill, Year of Faith and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Scarltherr says:

    I firmly believe that Twitter exist solely so that no thought will go unexpressed. At least that is how it tends to be used. His Holiness, however may be able to teach others to use Twitter for the beauty of brevity.

  2. mamajen says:

    I love alliteration, so I chose the first option in the first poll.

    As for the second poll…no, I don’t think in general it is a good idea. The Vatican does not seem to be particularly media savvy, and getting a point across in 140 characters can be challenging. I can just see the media/Twitterverse running away with tweets that they misunderstand or mischaracterize, the same way they do with some of the “gems” that come out of the Vatican newspaper. If they used it simply to spread links to content on their website, or make announcements, I guess that would be okay. I don’t believe for a second that the Pope himself will be tweeting.

  3. Legisperitus says:

    “Pipiatio” is easier to say quickly, which is the idea of Twitter anyway, isn’t it?

    “Titiatio” looks too much like “titillation” for my taste.

  4. Amy Giglio says:

    I tend to think that His Holiness’ Twitter feed will be used mostly to get out short quotes from his sermons, or links to encyclicals, etc. I think it’s great that there will be tweets in his name. I just wonder if the Press Office knows what it is getting into. Will there be someone who reads all of the tweets people will send him, or who will deal with the hate tweets he is bound to get?

  5. majuscule says:

    I agree with mamajen. I don’t want to even contemplate what the media will be doing with these tweets.

    I subscribe to Benedict Everyday emails but even those short quotes are usually longer and denser than normal Twitter fare.

    Let us pray that the papal twitterer is inspired by the Holy Spirit and the account is never hacked.

  6. The Masked Chicken says:

    Popes shouldn’t tweet like a bird. They should sing like an angel the praises of God. Popes need larger wings.

    The Chicken

  7. Imrahil says:

    I voted “No”. It’s the Pope, ladies and gentlemen.

    Though dear @mamajen made me thinking… for it is one of the huge communication-problems of true religion these days that it is (in an expression Fr Messner used about natural law theory) not “catchphrase-suitable”. And will it really help this communication if the Christian proudly (in the good sense of the word) says, as he indeed can (and as Fr Messner does): “We are not catchphrase-suitable but we are reality-suitable.” It is true; but does it convince?

    Hence, expressing thoughts in 140 characters might be good exercise.

    I did not count my characters but I might need this exercise too. (Not that it’d be so much important).

  8. Patruus says:

    Another suggestion for “tweeting” in Latin is based on the Reginaldo-Ciceronian verb “breviloquor”:

  9. VexillaRegis says:

    Also zwitscherte der Pabst?

  10. eulogos says:

    I agree with the potential for misuse and misinterpretation by the media. If the Pope does it himself-does he really have time and aren’t there more important things he could be doing? If someone else does it for him, whose voice will represent his; if he has to authorize everything he might as well do it himself; if he doesn’t sooner or later someone will misrepresent him, or even, misrepresent the Church.
    And how much can one say of import in 140 characters? I know I failed the test when I tried Twitter.


    [Let me try – Jesus said: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (Jn 6:53) – 140 spaces or characters exactly. Let’s have another shot at it – “At the top of the hour I will say Holy Mass. Will you please join your intentions to mine and unite yourselves in prayer wherever you are?” 140 spaces or characters exactly. This is English, of course. He would need other languages, too.]

    Jesus said: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (Jn 6:53)

  11. Navarricano says:

    I really don’t think this is a good idea at all. Unless the Pope personally writes and oversees the tweets himself, there’s too much room for error here. That, and the fact that I think he’s probably got a million better things to do and far better ways of getting his message out to the world. The Holy Father does not strike me as a man given to glib quips, off-the-cuff remarks and 140-character exchanges of opinion about unconfirmed news stories. And, similar to what Scarltherr said previously, I think Twitter is probably responsible for the propagation of more unprocessed thought than any other communications advance in history.

    I have a Twitter account. I don’t tweet a lot myself (I still try to process my thoughts before blurting them out) but I do use it to follow news stories from lots of different sources, and I retweet the ones I think are important. I already follow the Vatican Communication Office’s Twitter feed, as well as the Vatican News account. I don’t really see what value a personal papal Twitter account might have, and I don’t think the Vatican is aware just how nasty people get on Twitter, nor how much bile is going to poured out in the Holy Father’s direction by folks in the “Twitterverse”.

  12. Pingback: Pope Benedict on Twitter Hobbit-mania sweeps New Zealand | Big Pulpit

  13. Andkaras says:

    He can call for immediate prayer for any given situation. (think of 9-11) He can remind us of important decisions being made. If he were to tweet “get down on your knees and pray immediatly”,boy ,I would do it!

  14. ljc says:

    I’ve had issues with the way the Vatican is trying to get out there into the internet world for a while. In cases like this where the Pope is going on Twitter, and before when the Vatican got an official Youtube account, one problem is that these are owned by specific companies, and the Vatican can appear to be taking a favorable stance toward that particular company. What do we know about Twitter the company? Are they someone the Vatican should be officially aligning themselves with? And what if tomorrow Google began to make large contributions to planned parenthood, or some political candidate… would the Vatican close their Youtube account? It would just create a mess. The Pope shouldn’t be endorsing particular private companies.
    And I agree too that its not befitting for the successor of Peter to be sending out tweets.

  15. ljc says:

    And I dread to think of the future theology classes exploring what conditions need to be met for a Pope’s tweet to be considered infallible.

  16. MichaelJ says:

    When your parents attempted something simila( if in fact they did) did it work? Did your understanding improve when they tried to be “hip” and “relevant” and speak to you using “young kids lingo”, or did they come across as forced, affected and false?

  17. StWinefride says:

    Absolutely not. No.

    The only tweets Pius XII allowed to be heard were those from his pet canary ‘Gretel’.

  18. timothyputnam says:

    I am very wary of the “soundbite era” in which we find ourselves. We lament the loss of genuine dialogue and deep theological discussion, and yet we participate in the very things that bring about their demise. The deep things of God cannot be adequately expressed or examined in 140 characters; indeed, they easily fill volumes upon volumes of books.

    John McWhorter, in his book “Doing our own thing: The degradation of language and music, and why we should, like, care” points to our societies current fascination with summary and vapidity as a cause of concern. I tend to agree.

    I see a trend in Christianity that mirrors the cultural instinct to redefine or simplify words and concepts rather than educating the individual. While I don’t foresee the Holy Father dumbing down the faith via twitter, I am concerned that his presence might legitimize others doing so.

  19. The Masked Chicken says:

    “And how much can one say of import in 140 characters?”

    You are excommunicate.

  20. lelnet says:

    The most perfect successors of the apostles will, as the original apostles did, use every means available to them to spread the Good News, and thereby to win (or, more typically in the modern case, reclaim) souls for Christ.

  21. Bea says:

    I don’t understand Twitter and Tweets.
    But if the Pope is communicating directly with his people, I’m all for it.
    We need to hear his direct wordings without getting “interpretations” from the media.
    Let them be to us, his mini-sermons from the mount.

  22. Cranky Old Man says:

    Well, the real problem is that there is space for only 114 letters and spaces between Si quis dicat… and …anathema sit.

  23. It should be “pipio, pipiare: Pipiatio and Pipatum” like the word ‘piping’. The other, “titio, titiare: Titiatio and Titiatum” sounds too much like the “tittering”. Though many tweets we see are laughable…

    If the Pope is really going to Tweet, that would be awesome – get past the bureaucracy! Talk straight at us. But, sadly these won’t likely be from our Papa for real. And the threat of hacking is just too likely. But golly, supposing it IS him and for simplicity’s sake, these were all in Latin! You bet there’d be more interest in the language.

    I might wonder if I suddenly get the Tweet “Imprisoned in the Vatican. Need Twinkies”.

  24. Mary Jane says:

    No, absolutely no. “I will add, finally, that I don’t think Popes should tweet.” I don’t think anyone should tweet. Sorry, I’m gonna be blunt – I think Twitter is ridiculous, a total waste of time. The Pope does not need to keep up with social media, the Pope does not need to keep up with the times – the Church is cool enough already. The Church does not need social media.

  25. trespinos says:

    The Holy Father could start out with a direct quotation in Spanish, I suppose. St. Teresa of Avila’s “Nada te turbe” will fit in 140 characters and spaces.

    I voted “No”. The ideal tweeter is David Burge, a/k/a Iowahawk. His is the message that fits this medium, humor with a bite. I’ve been reading Cdl. Dolan’s earnest tweets. If the designated tweeter for the Holy Father produces anything similar, it won’t either surprise me or persuade me to follow him. But I hope I shall be surprised and persuaded.

  26. Andrew says:

    Titio? “… et dices ad eum: Vide, ut sileas; noli timere, et cor tuum ne formidet a duabus caudis TITIOnum fumigantium istorum.” (Isaias 7:3)

    Titio significat lignum adustum ab igne extractum.

  27. Legisperitus says:

    It occurs to me that there’s a certain virtue in disciplining one’s expression of thoughts, in restraining both the tongue and the pen (or keyboard). Popes should set an example by speaking or writing only when there is a need for it, and only after due reflection. Twitter, on the whole, is an example of the opposite.

  28. The Masked Chicken says:

    The first post could be something like:

    2day b4 u i presnt my 1st tweet. It is 1drfl. +u B14

    The Chicken

  29. VexillaRegis says:

    Chicken: B14? B16. Sound like vitamins, though ;-)

  30. catholicmidwest says:

    I’m not sure he should be tweeting either. I would guess that the Holy See is trying to look accessible and “modern” and timely. I see other people getting to the point above, and so I will also. This is likely simply to make common or pedestrian what the pope says to some degree in some eyes, and he could very well be misinterpreted, particularly with only 140 characters to use. If they’re going to do this, I hope they’re very careful. I see your example above, Fr. Z, but still I’m dubious. 140 characters used in a “safe” manner is likely to be little more than “hello” over and over and over until no one pays attention to it, except those people looking for something they can capitalize upon for notoriety’s sake.

    The Church needs to do a far better job of creating a practical program to deal with the modern world, and throwing out a few perfunctory tweets, or having a few ceremonial meetings with a few bloggers isn’t it. What they need are better web services, clearer communication with the public* and an unmistakeable understanding with each country’s bishops of exactly what is supposed to happen, or else. And then they need a follow-up plan because a) this is crucially important, and b) you never promise anything unless it’s something you can follow up with, and you intend to follow up with when a pre-determined trigger point is reached. Management 101.

    As for the follow-up plan in the United States, we need a far more flexible structure, still based on parishes but much more involved in religious education for adults, and far more accessible when it comes to events to participate in and sacraments such as confession and anointing of the sick. The Catholic church should become one of the go-to places in town, not only because you have to go there once a week (which most Catholics ignore anyway) but because there are things to do and things to have that you can’t get anyplace else. Non-catholics should also be showing up to get niceties like blessings on their dogs in October, and ashes on Ash Wednesday, because it’s cool and they can. [Most of them don’t know they can, and we don’t publicize much of anything effectively.] Note, and this is important, we do not have to compete with the other institutions of the world on their turf, because we have things they cannot provide, and those are exactly the things we need to be providing.

    *I see that the pope met with about 1000 clowns this week. The pictures are all over the web. I’m not sure what impression this makes with people, particularly people who aren’t Catholic and already think Catholics dress funny, but even those who are–and particularly those who aren’t European. Clowns mean something different to different ethnic and national groups, and to different eras of history. I’m sure they’re aware of this, right? In the middle of everything else that’s going on, why? Why? Why?

    The Holy See needs to become far more aware of how they LOOK and what message they send out when they’re not explicitly writing messages. Among good teachers, there’s something called with-it-ness. With-it-ness is not being “hip.” Rather, it’s the ability to know where you physically stand and how you look, for the purpose of applying yourself to a accomplishing a legitimate and objective end. And it involves simultaneously knowing what’s going on with others in the room in the same way. It doesn’t imply that you’re sacrificing anything or that you’re pandering; quite the opposite. Definitely the opposite. It guarantees that you get everyone’s attention and keeps the unintended consequences down. It enables getting out the message and making sure it’s heard. And then, the audience takes you seriously. This is serious business.

  31. catholicmidwest says:

    Perhaps instead of personal tweets, the Holy See ought to have a series of links to things: pictures that can be used on facebook, short clips, perks or tips or niceties for Catholics and so on. Links to free ebook prayer books or something would be nice; links coordinated with national bishops’ councils to get materials for children would be nice and increase traffic of the right sort within the Church.

  32. catholicmidwest says:

    PS, I am aware that an “unmistakeable understanding” is a tough thing for a lot of reasons, but chiefly because of the way the Church is structured with respect to managing authority. Nevertheless, given the tools and structures that are in place, it is still possible to talk about objectives and management, and it is necessary that they do so. The sooner this happens in Europe and the United States, the better.

  33. The Masked Chicken says:

    Oppps…B16 I got the Latin reversed: BIV instead of BVI…that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it. On the other hand, see my comment on clowns in the Merry-go-round post.

    The Chicken

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