Beliefs Culture

Spiritual wisdom in 140 characters or less

(RNS) The Dalai Lama has 5,702,736 followers on Twitter.

How many people does he follow? Zero.

Pope Benedict XVI plans to start tweeting on Wednesday (Dec. 12). His Twitter handle is @Pontifex, which means “bridge builder” in Latin.

Benedict hasn't even sent out a tweet and already had amassed more than 629,000 Twitter followers. Like the Dalai Lama, the pope doesn't plan to follow anyone. So far the pope is only following himself, as he will tweet in English, Spanish, Italian, Polish, French, Arabic, Portuguese and German.

Will the tweets be infallible? Will he use OMG or would that be sacrilegious? What holy hashtags will he create? Who will be the first person to get a retweet from the pope?

Will he top the queen of Twitter? Lady Gaga has 31.8 million followers. Next in line is Justin Bieber, who is a close second at 31.1 million.

What will the Holy See say in 140 characters?

Some have already guessed. After the pope used Twitter for the first time last year, New Yorker writer Paul Rudnick imagined what the Pope might tweet:

“Sometimes, when I'm all alone, I like to put on my cassock and spin around really fast and pretend I'm a tepee.”

“If people ask, 'Why does God allow war and evil?' I ask, 'Why do the high-school students on “Glee” look forty?'”

“When I stand on my balcony and wave to the faithful and millions more via satellite, I think, Kate Middleton must hate me!

Comedian Conan O'Brien and the followers on his website had fun with the idea of what the pope would say. These were some of the suggested pope tweets:

“Just walked into a bar with a rabbi. Blew the bartender's mind.”

“You guys, the cape IS as much fun as you think. The superhero impressions never get old.”

“Watching 'The Exorcist', pretending it's 'for work.'”

If you aren't on Twitter, you might scoff at the idea of sending out messages using 140 characters or less. But you'd be amazed what you can say in so short a space. The pope will find it a refreshing change from those long encyclicals, papal bulls and decrees. He plans to offer simple pearls of wisdom. That's what I get from the inspirational people I follow on Twitter.

Pastor Rick Warren @RickWarren constantly tweets:

“The Church is NOT a business because we have nothing to sell. Past forgiven, Purpose for livin', Home in heaven — are free.”

“Every night dogs howl at the moon, but the moon keeps shining. Keep on loving.”

“God loves u just as u are, but he loves u too much to allow u to stay that way. There's no salvation without #repentance!”

The Dalai Lama @DalaiLama tends to tweet about compassion:

“On a simple level we find that if we have a compassionate heart we naturally have more friends.”

“A mind wishing to benefit other people and other sentient beings is the very basis of peace and happiness.”

“Peace in the world relies on individuals finding inner peace.

Preacher Joyce Meyer @JoyceMeyer offers these practical pearls:

“Approach life with boldness. The Spirit of the Lord is in you — so make up your mind not to fear.”

“If you want to get over a problem, stop talking about it. Your mind affects your mouth, and your mouth affects your mind.”

“Learn how to enjoy where you are on the way to where you're going.”

Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist @thichnhathanh, keeps it simple:

“Sitting is an art.”

“Can nothing become something?

“Aimlessness means not setting an object or goal in front of you and running after it. How do you practice with aimlessness?

Some might say by spending too much time on Twitter.

(Regina Brett writes for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland.)