Who’s tweeting for the Vatican?

VATICAN CITY — Over the weekend some media announced that the Vatican had opened a Twitter feed. Intrigued, I quickly went to @vatican_va on Twitter. At first glance, it looked like the Vatican — there was the Vatican coat of arms, the Vatican flag and a link to the Vatican Web site. And hundreds of tweets in many languages, linking to Vatican Radio stories.

Then I e-mailed Father Federico Lombardi, who heads both the Vatican press office and Vatican Radio. I got a response rather quickly, and a surprising one. He said the Twitter feed was news to him, and that neither the press office nor Vatican Radio was doing the tweeting. A call to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications elicited a similar response: it wasn’t them, and they didn’t know who it was.

Hmmm. This was beginning to look more and more like online impersonation.  Perhaps not the first, either: I knew there was already a @vaticanen Twitter feed that also identified itself as “Vatican” without, as far as I knew, any authorization.

A few more calls around the Vatican this morning elicited more surprise and some concern. I have the impression that Vatican Radio may be seriously considering a Twitter feed, and doesn’t like being hijacked like this.

At this point, no one I’ve spoken with here has any idea who’s tweeting for the Vatican. More as it develops…

UPDATE: The Vatican_va tweeter appears to have been silenced. No tweets on http://twitter.com/vatican_va since Monday afternoon. Yesterday someone at the Vatican told me this tweeter wouldn’t be posting for long … and he was right. The whole episode has prompted some Vatican media people to remark, “It wasn’t us — but it should have been us.” So don’t be surprised to see a real Vatican Twitter feed in the future.

Some may be aware of a similar Twitter account that calls itself  “popebenedictxvi“. It posted quite a few items last year about papal activities, gained more than 3,700 followers, and then fell quiet until recently. This tweeter, though, states clearly near the top of the page: “This is not an official Vatican service. I’m just a fan doing his part to spread the word.” And his latest tweet, sent Jan. 24 after the pope issued his World Communications Day message on new media, issues this invitation: “If anyone at the Vatican would like to claim this Twitter acct, pls Direct Message me.” That seems like an offer too good to refuse.

SECOND UPDATE: OK, @vatican_va is back tweeting like crazy again, though it looks like whatever automated system he/she is using to link to Vatican Radio stories is having some hiccups. I really wish there were a way to identify the people behind Twitter accounts.

12 Responses

  1. John,

    As one blogger who picked it up and passed it along, thanks for doing the inquiries.

    The feed is still pretty good regardless, as it is all Vatican Radio links in many languages.

    That having been said, they should not impersonate.

    Perhaps the whole experience will get the Vatican to follow the advice of the Holy Father and start using Twitter.

    If the Pope is doing Facebook, he might consider adding Twitter on Pope2You.com!

  2. I wish the Vatican would have an official feed on Twitter and every other social network. The Holy Father stressed in his message for the 44th World Day of Communications that “All priests have as their primary duty the proclamation of Jesus Christ”. I think it is very important for the Vatican to set an example. They did a great job by embracing YouTube, but the need to take the lead other areas of communication and networking before the secular world does. God bless our Holy Father for his encouragement!

  3. I second Fr. Finelli’s motion. Finding the Vatican on Twitter would be a no brainer. No wonder so many would fall for it. It will be interesting to see what kind of information is disseminated from the “poser”.

  4. Sence,as you say,this has all the earmarks of the vatican, look within. If it has maret, incourage them, explain that “light with a hidden source” can be a blessing but,dangerious as well.

  5. I’m sure whomever was doing this was well-meaning (albeit misguided).

    I agree with Fr. Finelli – the Holy See would do well to use this as an opportunity follow the advice of Pope Benedict on using digital media.

    Twitter is a global thing now. To my mind, it may even be more effective at getting news and bulletins out of the Holy See than Facebook.

  6. The official Vatican account should be “Verified.” This account is not.

  7. I concur with Fr. Jay Finelli, who is the EXACT type of priest the Vatican is describing in the World Communications Day message. In fact, I really think both the Vatican and the USCCB should be turning to Fr. Jay, Fr. Roderick of SQPN, and our other new media savvy and very holy priests for real world guidance in this matter. Thanks for keeping us abreast of these fascinating topics!

  8. Thanks for checking this, I just became a follower as well. I’m very interested to see how this all plays out.

  9. Hello – the Twitter account “Vaticanen” is NOT the Vatican twitter account. This account is mainly for Catholics to research info on the Vatican, but has no ties with the Vatican itself.

  10. i think it is time the vatican began tweeting . it must embrace all the “legitimate” forms of communications . otherwise it will be rendered irrelevant she must reach all through facebook, you tube, twitter, and all the rest.

  11. I think this notice (link below) on the Vatican Radio website clears up any question about the Vatican’s ownership of the Twitter accounts.

    http://www.radiovaticana.org/EN1/Articolo.asp?c=365952

  12. I was shocked to read the attack of a church in Iraque and a priest was killed

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