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Pope's Twitter Account Will Shut Down When Benedict XVI Resigns (UPDATE)

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Pope Benedict XVI, also known as @Pontifex, will shut down his Twitter account later this month | Pontifex, Twitter

When Pope Benedict XVI announced in early February that he was going to resign, the first question everyone asked was: Why? The second was: Who will the next Pope be? And the third was: What will happen to his Twitter account?

Okay, maybe that wasn't actually anyone's third question, but it's still a good one. The answer, according to Vatican Radio, is that Pope Benedict XVI's Twitter account will be shut down when he leaves his position at the end of February.

The Pope has sent 36 tweets since he started using his @Pontifex account on Dec. 12, 2012. The tweets have been generic, religious and sincere, and the account has over 1.5 million followers. @Pontifex follows only 8 other accounts, all of which are carbon-copies of his own account written in different languages.

The fourth question: Why shouldn't the new pope take over this Twitter account? It seemed to be created with that idea in mind, since the handle is the generic "Pontifex" (an old-fashioned word for a high priest in ancient Rome) and could easily be transferred on to the next pope, whoever that may be.

UPDATE Feb. 23: Msgr. Paul Tighe, who works in the Pope's social communications office, clarifies to Vatican Radio that the account will be inactive for now and that "@pontifex will be available for use by the next Pope as he may wish."

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