It could have been the tweet of the century.
But Pope Benedict decided not to announce his resignation on Twitter, which he joined last year in a foray into social media that has reaped uncertain spiritual returns and could be curtailed by his successor.
Obviously keen to avoid any leak of his resignation – which would have been a risk as his tweets are typed up by an aide – the pope announced it in person, in Latin, to a restricted group of cardinals. The video was then given to the world’s media.
News of the first pontiff to resign in seven centuries scorched through Twitter, generating 1.5 million comments in the first 36 hours, according to analytics firm Crimson Hexagon.
But of those, a third were negative, criticising the pope or the Roman Catholic Church, and 38 percent were jokes. Just 7 percent were positive, expressing concern for the pontiff or hope about the future.