Pope Francis, the successor of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, tweeted his first message on March 17 from the pope’s official Twitter account @Pontifex.
Dear friends, I thank you from my heart and I ask you to continue to pray for me. Pope Francis. – Pope Francis (@Pontifex) March 17, 2013
The first tweet from Pope Francis, formerly Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, came four days after he was elected as the new head of the Roman Catholic Church.
But does the pope post messages on Twitter by himself?
Behind the scenes, many volunteers lend their hands to help the pope reach out to more than one billion Roman Catholics worldwide. And social media has lately become an indispensable part for the Church that it needs a guardian for its accounts.
Two American undergrad interns from Catholic school Villanova University in Pennsylvania are up to the task.
Interns Sean Hudgins and Danielle McMonagle check and update the News.Va English Facebook Page every day.
In an interview with social media site Mashable, Hudgins said their daily job focuses on the English language Facebook page of News.Va.
The News.Va Facebook page is run by Vatican News and delivers “the word” to “Likers” and followers who want daily updates on the goings-on in the Vatican, he added.
The pair also scout for fake Pope Francis accounts while they are at it.
Hudgins said they monitor Twitter activity and search for impostors on the micro-blogging site of more than 500 million members.
He mentioned how quickly fake Pope Francis accounts appeared on Twitter right after the pope’s election.
None of the two interns have actually used the @Pontifex account to send a tweet, but Hudgins said it could happen once Pope Francis gets fully absorbed into real world activities.
He confirmed, however, that the revival of @Pontifex could mean Francis I will be a tweeting pope.
Compared with Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis is more a “people person.” So Hudgins believes he will engage more in social media than his predecessor.
But why did the Vatican delete the previous pope’s tweets?
Without disclosing too much information than he is allowed to, Hudgins said they did it to avoid the risk of mixing the popes’ tweets.
He compared the handling of the pope’s Twitter account to that of the White House’s Twitter account and discussed how it is necessary to avoid confusion during a transfer of power, although the White House’s Twitter account has yet to go through that.
To close the interview with Mashable, he said the experience of working as an intern at the Vatican is a “great opportunity.”
Hudgins started work for the Vatican one day after Pope Benedict XVI announced his retirement.