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#AskPontifex is a hashtag launched after Pope Benedict XVI joined the online social networking and microblogging service Twitter in December of 2012. The hashtag was initially introduced by the Vatican for Twitter users to ask questions regarding the Catholic faith but was immediately overrun with jokes and insults directed at the Pope.
Pope Benedict XVI officially joined Twitter under the handle @Pontifex on December 3rd, 2012. The same day, the New York Times published an article titled “Twitter Has a New User: The Pope,” which reported that Benedict would be sending his first tweet on December 12th and would be responding to questions submitted with the hashtag #askponifex. Within 48 hours, the @Pontifex Twitter account had accumulated over 490,000 followers.
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On the same day, the tech news blog Wired reported that some users were using the hashtag to make jokes, such as asking irreverent questions about McDonald’s McRib sandwich and the 2009 horror film The Human Centipede. Also on December 3rd, the Internet news blog UpRoxx published a post titled “The Pope Has Joined Twitter,” which highlighted humorous tweets directed at Pope Benedict XVI (shown below).
On December 4th, UpRoxx published a follow-up post titled “The Best of #AskPontifex, In Which the Pope Solicits Questions and Twitter Hilariously Obliges,” which featured a slideshow of satirical tweets using the hashtag. The same day, the Internet news blog Web Pro News published a compilation of notable #AskPontifex tweets. On December 5th, the tech news blog Cnet published an article titled “#AskPontifex Meme Takes Off Before Pope’s First Tweet.”
On February 22nd, 2013, the official Vatican broadcasting service Vatican Radio announced that the @Pontifex Twitter account, as well as eight accounts distributing the same tweets in multiple languages, would be shut down the same day Pope Benedict XVI leaves the papacy on February 28th. The announcement was subsequently reported by CNN, the tech news blog The Verge and the Internet news blog The Daily Dot. Prior to its close, the account received over 1.5 million followers on the social networking and microblogging website. According to Vatican Radio, his last tweet is expected to be published on February 27th.
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