Yesterday the Pope ceased to be Pope, flying out of Vatican City and, as part of the desk-clearing process, the Vatican deleted all of his tweets. Not that this came as any surprise, but the word “abrupt” does spring to mind.
Benedict XVI, who is now to live the life of a simple “pilgrim”–albeit one with the title of Pope Emeritus–was the first Pontiff to embrace social media, with his @Pontifex account accruing over 1.5 million followers. Vistors to the page are met with a simple statement saying that @Pontifex hasn’t tweeted yet. Well, he has, but all of his 140-character missives have been archived to a page on the Vatican website.
Two weeks ago, the Pope’s announcement took everyone by surprise–in fact, the only person cognisant of the former Cardinal Ratzinger’s increasing belief that he was not up to the job was his brother Georg, also in the church. Benedict’s actions will go down as one of the most astonishing pivots in recent times, and many traditionalists will see him as the ultimate Catholic disruptor. You could, however, argue that, by being the first Pope to resign in 600 years, he is nothing less than an arch-traditionalist.
The work to choose a new Pontiff starts in ten days. All Cardinals who are eligible to vote for a new incumbent move into a specially-constructed hotel within the Vatican, where they will stay, incommunicado, (all mobile devices are taken away) until the white smoke puffs above the Vatican roof to show that the powers that be have decided on Benedict’s successor.