Pope Benedict XVI’s debut on Twitter got off to a bumpy start on Wednesday, with mockery outweighing piety in reaction to the first tweets from the leader of the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics.
The pope’s second tweet — “How can we celebrate the Year of Faith better in our daily lives?” — prompted a string of tongue-in-cheek- answers.
“With some nice cold chocolate milk. And the Lord?” wrote one user tweeting in Portuguese with the handle @tensoblog.
Another distinctly sin-minded user, @binnie, joked: “Hookers and blow.”
Along with the absurd, there were also serious answers like that from @francagiansol, who tweeted: “With humility and charity and by setting an example.”
A formal-sounding @RoyalBlueStuey wrote: “The Rosary and the Mass”.
“By preaching more acceptance Your Holiness. The Church has lost its footing in adapting to the times,” wrote @klubbkiddkl, an avowedly lapsed Catholic.
Fast-paced tweeters replied so quickly that many did not realise the pope’s question was rhetorical.
A few minutes later the pope tweeted: “By speaking with Jesus in prayer, listening to what he tells you in the Gospel and looking for him in those in need.”
The Vatican has emphasised that it welcomes all kinds of reactions to the pope’s tweets as it regards social networks as a democratic forum.
Vatican officials say they believe the risks of mockery are outweighed by the importance of spreading the Catholic message to a younger global audience.
There were some bizarre requests as well, with @johnnypalomba on the pope’s Italian account asking the Vatican to celebrate the Year of Faith by including a column on the Roma football team in its official newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.
Some commenters referred to the clerical child abuse scandals which have rocked the Catholic Church over the past decade.
@ElHijoDePutin, tweeting in Spanish, answered the pope on how to mark the Year of Faith by saying: “Mmm, by not raping children and by paying property tax.”
Among the thousands of replies and re-tweets there were also many requests from Twitter users for the Roman pontiff to “follow” them.
One of the more off-the-wall questions was from @A_Hiccup who asked the pope: “What are your thoughts on Dhoni’s captaincy” — a reference to the captain of India’s cricket team, Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Writing in French, @GgRrEegOorYy asked: “Have you got 10 euros?”
@damiengwalter took a graver tone, asking the pope to have “a less confused and corrupted mythic belief system.”
In the same vein, @pinchinn wrote: “Explain to me why it’s a bad idea to wear a condom,” prompting a reply from @luu_maz criticising the tweeter for “a total lack of respect”.
In reaction to the pope’s fourth tweet — “How can faith in Jesus be lived in a world without hope?” — @johnfreiler was unimpressed, tweeting: “You are a huge bummer, dude.”