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Will Catholics Follow The New @pontifex?

On Wednesday the Conclave of Cardinals (or the Sweet Sistine for those who just couldn’t resist. It is March, after all) elected a new Pope after the “Transitional” Pope Benedict I resigned. The white smoke rose from the roof of the Vatican as it has for hundreds of years and a new man put on the red shoes and pointy hat and Pope Francis I was introduced.

And in true Vatican tradition, he was on Twitter 30 minutes later with: “HABEMUS PAPAM FRANCISCUM,” which translates to: “We have Pope Francis.”

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The tweet was then retweeted over 25,000 times in 10 minutes.

And because the kids think it’s funny a fake Twitter account was created for the new Pope who then sent out this message: “If I’m going to be the new pope, kids are going to love me more than Santa Claus”

Thus begins a papacy faced with a social media frontier his predecessor seemed to embrace.

So what will the new guy do now?

Religion and social media have had a fruitful relationship for a few years now. Jesus Daily claims to be the most engaged Facebook page in the world with 1.3 billion impressions every 30 days and over 16.5 million fans. Even the Dalai Lama has 6 million followers and regularly posts inspirational messages. And Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church uses many social media outlets to reach out to followers and would-be followers. He has 1.4 million Twitter followers who religiously (sorry) retweet his messages.

Pope Francis I has an almost limitless potential to reach to the estimated 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide. Over 40% of them live in Latin America. The new Pope is from Argentina so there is a huge potential for even more growth pairing that loyalty with social media. The biggest growth of Catholicism has been in Africa so a mass on YouTube could bring his message directly to the people.

One out of seven people on planet Earth has a Facebook account so maybe we’ll see Popeville. And funny pope pics on Tumblr could rev up the dearth of new young Catholics. Or maybe not.

But as with anything having to do with shooting your mouth off even an infallible pontiff will need to tweet carefully. Many a corporation has set off a virtual poo-storm with dumb, spontaneous, or insensitive posts and they may only have one country with their pants in a twist.

Just imagine making 1.2 billion people mad at you.

So it’s with great interest that we’ll watch to see just how savvy this pope will be. His faith message could bring hope and comfort to millions and he would be missing a huge opportunity if he doesn’t make use of social media. On the other hand, will he share recipes, cat videos or post his fave from Dancing With The Stars? Follow @pontifex to find out.

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