Popemania hits the Twittersphere
MILLIONS of Filipinos are planning to endure crushing crowds, security threats and stormy weather this week to get close to Pope Francis, but many others feel they have a better way - via social media.
The pontiff may be 78, but he is one of the world's most cyber-savvy leaders, and he has ignited a social-media frenzy in the majority Catholic country.
Yesterday, he was welcomed by thousands as he began his five-day visit to the bulkhead of Catholicism in Asia.
Thousands of Filipinos have sent tweets to his official Twitter account, @Pontifex, and used a wide range of other online forums to send prayer requests and welcome him to the country.
"It feels like I am talking to him directly, even if I know it's run by an administrator," Angelique Mina-Rualo, a bank officer who credits surviving cancer to her Catholic faith, told AFP after she sent a tweet to the Pope's account. "Talking straight to the Pope is like talking straight to God."
Pope Francis has close to 17 million followers on Twitter accounts in nine different languages, second only to United States President Barack Obama, according to Twiplomacy, which monitors statistics on the microblogging site.
But his messages have the most reach, with his posts retweeted an average 10,000 times, nearly 10 times more than Mr Obama, according to Twiplomacy.
His initial Twitter message before his two-nation Asia trip that began in Sri Lanka, in which he asked people to pray for him, was retweeted more than 23,000 times.