UK & World News
Pope Election: Cardinals Barred From Twitter
Cardinals will not be allowed to connect to their Twitter accounts when they convene next month to elect a new Pope.
According to Catholic News Service, the Vatican has barred cardinals from using the social network during the conclave - the secret meeting in the Sistine Chapel that will name a successor to Benedict XVI.
Under the strict rules governing the election of a Pope, from the moment the cardinals enter the conclave, they will be sequestered and will have no contact with the outside world - and that includes cutting them off from social networks.
Benedict shocked the world when he announced last week that he was stepping down as Pontiff on February 28.
The 85-year-old said his old age and declining health prevented him from leading the Roman Catholic Church.
No date for the conclave has been announced.
But the Vatican has recently suggested it might convene the gathering of cardinals in the first half of March - earlier than expected - to have a new Pope in place by Easter Sunday on March 31.
All cardinals under the age of 80 are allowed to cast ballots in the conclave.
Of the 117 men currently eligible, only nine are known to be active Twitter users, according to Catholic News Service.
Some of them have been touted as papal contenders, such as Milan Archbishop Cardinal Angelo Scola, who has about 17,000 followers.
American Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, has 81,000 followers but has tweeted only over 200 times.
Benedict himself took to Twitter recently under the handle @pontifex, quickly gathering 1.5 million followers in his English-language account alone.