Celebrities aren't the only ones who can claim royal status on Twitter. Though he might not be Kim Kardashian, Pope Benedict XVI has already collected hundreds of thousands of followers for his Twitter account, @pontifex, which was announced yesterday.
It's not surprising that holy high rollers are drawn to the medium: religious leaders on average pull more weight per tweet, with one retweet for every 500 followers. In comparison, musicians typically get a retweet for every 30,000. "We see a very high level of engagement with religious and spiritual content," Twitter spokeswoman Rachael Horwitz told CNN. "Followers respond to these topics with replies, retweets, and clicks on links much more often than they do other subjects."
With that in mind, here are 8 religious rock stars of Twitter:
Pope Benedict XVI (@Pontifex)
The Catholic Church leader has just claimed his holy handle, @pontifex. Regardless of the fact that he has zero tweets—he'll host his first Q&A on December 12—the Pope has already garnered almost 400,000 followers. No word on what his first choice for a Twitter handle was, but the obvious choices were long taken before today: @Pope is a web developer; @BenedictXVI is a fan who doesn't tweet.
Dalai Lama (@DalaiLama)
Classic tweet: "I always try to share with others the idea that in order to become compassionate it is not necessary to become religious."
When the 14th Dalai Lama met Twitter cofounder Ev Williams in 2010, Williams tweeted: "Met the Dalai Lama today in LA. Pitched him on using Twitter. He laughed." Today, His Holiness has more than 5.6 million followers. The Dalai Lama's tech team doesn't limit itself to Twitter: He's also on Facebook and YouTube, and he had a Google+ Hangout with Archbishop Desmond Tutu last October.
Joel Osteen (@JoelOsteen)
Classic tweet: "Just because you don’t see anything happening doesn’t mean God is not working."
The Houston megapastor Osteen, who has more than 1 million followers, tweets daily, inspirational aphorisms that regularly see between 5,000 and 10,000 retweets and favorites.
Joyce Meyer (@JoyceMeyer)
Classic tweet: "You don't need to know what tomorrow holds; all you need to know is the One who holds tomorrow."
The Christian author and speaker, one of several Twitter "powerhouses" featured by the New York Times, has an average of 170 reactions per 50,000 followers—almost 3 times Justin Bieber's average.
Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr. (@RevJJackson)
Classic tweet: "When guns are in close proximity: used a fit of anger they are more likely to kill a loved one than a robber..."
The Baptist minister and civil rights activist's Twitter feed is typically peppered with news stories and his own commentary on issues in both Chicago and the White House.
Reverend Run (@RevRunWisdom)
Classic tweet: "Are you wrinkled with burden? Come to God for a FAITH lift.."
Joseph "Rev. Run" Simmons—who often links to photos and tweets from different members of his famous family—has nearly 4 million Twitter followers.
Rick Warren (@RickWarren)
Classic tweet: "Academic exegesis can be like studying the Mona Lisa in a microscope - so detailed you miss the beauty of the big picture."
The pastor, who has more than 800,000 followers, is also an avid Instagram user.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach (@RabbiShmuley)
Classic tweet: "we had to be in europe for wedding. i am working day/night on my new relationship book 'kosher lust' how marriages should be based on desire"
The Newsweek-dubbed "Most Famous Rabbi in America," who has more than 25,000 followers, regularly dishes his thoughts on religion, politics, and relationships.
[Image: Flickr user Ken Douglas]