On Thursday, February 28, Pope Benedict XVI thanked the more than 1.6 million people around the world who have been following him on Twitter. It was his final tweet before the Vatican suspended his account and archived his content.
According to Laura Smith-Spark and Richard Allen Greene of CNN, “Benedict’s final tweet, sent at 11 a.m. ET from his @Pontifex account, read: “Thank you for your love and support. May you always experience the joy that comes from putting Christ at the center of your lives.'”
The pope had posted less than 40 tweets after joining Twitter last year, but his use of social media was still an important first for the Roman Catholic Church.
According to Alex Fitzpatrick of Mashable, “Benedict made social media history as as the first pope to tweet and the first pope with his own Twitter account, @Pontifex. With Benedict leaving the papacy, the fate of @Pontifex is uncertain — the Vatican has said it will leave the account untouched during the conclave until Benedict’s successor decides if he, too, will be a tweeting pope.
“… @Pontifex has nearly 1.6 million followers on the English-language account and several hundred thousand more across eight other-language accounts. The account was created on Feb. 23 but didn’t begin tweeting until mid-December, sending less than 40 tweets since then.”
The pope’s account was presumably suspended because cardinals are not allowed to communicate with anyone outside the Vatican during the secret election process to choose his successor. In Benedict’s new role as pope emeritus, the same rules probably apply to him.
According to CNN, “Cardinals are forbidden to communicate with the outside world — now including by Twitter — during the conclave, held within the Sistine Chapel. There is no Internet access inside Santa Marta, where the cardinals will stay during the conclave, [Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi] said.”
Pope Benedict posted his final tweet shortly before taking a quick helicopter ride to Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer home. CNN reported that he will stay there for a few weeks before moving to a small monastery inside the Vatican.
Before he made his last tweet, Pope Benedict spoke to a gathering of about 10,000 people who were there at Castel Gandolfo to say goodbye to him.
According to CNN, “Earlier, in what is likely to be his last ever public appearance, Benedict thanked cheering crowds for their ‘friendship’ as he stepped down.
“‘I am no longer the pope but I am still in the church. I’m just a pilgrim who is starting the last part of his pilgrimage on this earth,’ he said.
“‘I would still — with my heart, with my love, with my prayers, with my reflection, and with all my inner strength — like to work for the common good and the good of the church and of humanity.
“‘I feel very supported by your kindness. Let us go forward with the Lord for the good of the church and the world. Thank you.'”