Parrots may squawk in the Vatican Gardens during a conclave, but the cardinals are not allowed to tweet.
For most of the 117 red-vested princes of the church who are eligible to vote for a new pope, Twitter isn’t an issue at all. But the College of Cardinals does include at least nine active tweeters. From the moment they enter the Sistine Chapel to cast their ballots, they will be forbidden access to their accounts along with all other forms of communication with the outside world. Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York (@CardinalDolan) informed his almost 80,000 Twitter followers when Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation Feb. 11. As of Feb. 15, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston (@CardinalSean) had not mentioned the pope’s resignation on his Twitter feed.
In fact, the last tweet to his more than 9,200 followers was posted two days before the pope’s announcement. After the pope’s announcement, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, (@CardRavasi) president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, almost immediately tweeted a traditional prayer in Latin: “Sub tuum praesidium confugimus, sancta Dei Genetrix” (“Under thy protection we seek refuge, O Holy Mother of God.”)
The Italian cardinal, often mentioned on pundits’ lists of possible popes, has more than 35,400 followers and tweets frequently. Brazilian Cardinal Odilo Scherer of Sao Paulo (@DomOdiloScherer) is not a daily tweeter. But on Feb. 14 he used Twitter, with its 140-character maximum for messages, to comment, “I am impressed with the interpretations I have read of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.”