A Twitter ban will be imposed when cardinals vote for a successor to Pope Benedict XVI next month. When the 117-strong papal conclave enter the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican City to cast their ballots, they will be forbidden access to their accounts along with all other forms of communication.
Most of them do not use the site but there are at least nine members who are known users. One of them is a favourite in the Pontifical run, Angelo Scola, the current Archbishop of Milan.
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Instead of relying on insider tweets for the outcome of the vote, people will have to rely on clues from the traditional smoke system. During the voting process, which can last many days, smoke emerges twice daily from the Sistine Chapel as a result of the burning of ballot papers. Black signals failure to reach an agreement but white smoke indicates that a new pontiff has been chosen.
The current Pope has been a Twitter user since December 2012. His account @Pontifex has amassed more than 1.5 million followers over the course of 36 tweets.
Pope Benedict XVI will step down at 8pm on February 28 following a shock announcement on February 11. The 85-year-old will be the first pope to resign in nearly 600 years. The earliest date allowed under current Holy See regulations for the College of Cardinals to decide on their new leader is March 15. But the Vatican has hinted that they might convene before this date.
The current law states cardinals that should wait 15 days after the papacy becomes vacant before launching a conclave to allow all eligible cardinals to get to Rome, making March 15 the presumed start. However, this rule assumed a papal death and funeral. In this case, the cardinals already know that this pontificate will end on February 28 so they will be able to get to Rome in plenty of time to take part.
He announced his decision in Latin during a meeting of Vatican cardinals. He says his strength is no longer adequate to continue in office and that because of his advanced age and diminishing strength, he didn't feel he could continue.
His official announcement read: "After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry."
"In order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me."
A Vatican spokesman confirmed that Pope Benedict XVI is not resigning because of any difficulties in the papacy.
Previously known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he was one of the oldest new popes in history when he was elected on April 19 2005, replacing Pope John Paul II.
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