The Pope’s final message to the faithful before his retreat from public life was broadcast globally to his million-strong Twitter followers on Thursday (28 February). Using the handle @pontifex, Benedict XVI told followers:
“Thank you for your love and support. May you always experience the joy that comes from putting Christ at the centre of your lives.”
Pope Benedict, often regarded as bookish, was the first pontiff to embrace mini-blogging site Twitter. He sent his first tweet via iPad on 12 December, saying:
“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.”
By the time of his departure, his followers numbered more that 1,500,000 on his English Twitter profile alone. Benedict XVI also held accounts broadcasting to followers in Latin, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, Italian and Arabic.
Benedict, the first Pope to resign the papacy in over 600 years, will stay at Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer retreat south of Rome, until April when renovations are completed on a convent in the Vatican that will be his new home.
Given his preference for a secluded life away from the public eye, it seems unlikely that the former pope will continue to tweet in a personal capacity after he is no longer @pontifex.