Recently it was announced that Pope Benedict’s new Twitter handle is @pontifex.
Why did he pick this name, and what does it mean, anyway?
The word’s origin is more surprising than you might think!
Other Possible Names
Pope Benedict might have picked other names. Some plausible ones include:
Why didn’t he pick any of these?
I would suggest two reasons.
Some May Already Be Taken
People have already been using some of the plausible papal Twitter handles, and Twitter does not easily reassign such names.
Still, for the pope they might make an exception.
In fact, for all I know, they may have made an exception. Somebody may have already been using @pontifex.
But I think there’s another, even more practical reason.
Pope Benedict Is Thinking Ahead
While I hope that Pope Benedict reigns for many more years, he is not planning on being pope forever.
In thus think the main reason that he chose the handle he did is because he’s thinking ahead and didn’t want to make everyone have to sign up to get the next pope’s tweets–at whatever time there is a new pope.
In other words, he’s leaving future popes a ready-built Twitter platform that they can use to get their message out.
He thus didn’t include anything specific to him–no variation of “Benedict” or “XVI” in the handle.
That leaves us with generic words for pope–like “pope” and “pontifex.”