Can Twitter predict the next pope?

As the College of Cardinals meets to pick a new pope, we examine how many of them use Twitter and whether that can help predict the next pontiff

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If the pope is chosen based on amount of tweeting, then Cardinal Odilo Scherer of Brazil is your next pontiff

Image credit: REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

As we all know, over in Rome the 115 members of the College of Cardinals are hard at work trying to pick a new pope. The official conclave began on Tuesday, at which time the cardinals were required hand over their smartphones, tablets and laptops, because they are not allowed to communicate with the outside world until a new pope is chosen. That means no phone calls, no emailing and, of course, no tweeting.

This got me to wondering just how many of these gents are tweeting in the first place. Also, would tweeting a lot, or having a lot of Twitter followers, be considered a positive or negative when considering whether someone would make a good pope? To find out, I got a list of the cardinals involved in choosing the next pope and looked to see who was even on Twitter, how much they tweeted and how many followers they had.

Based on my research, here now, are your tweeting cardinals:

These cardinals do tweet

Cardinal Number of tweets Number of Twitter followers
Odilo Pedro Scherer 1,610 30,286
Gianfranco Ravasi 910 44,809
Wilfrid Fox Napier 816 7,043
Lluís Martínez Sistach 651 4,572
Sean Patrick O'Malley 359 15,868
Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez 313 3,712
Dominik Duka 267 636
Timothy Michael Dolan 235 97,222
Norberto Rivera Carrera 218 4,526
Angelo Bagnasco 113 398
Francisco Robles Ortega 103 2,669
Antonio María Rouco Varela 99 677
Rubén Salazar Gómez 76 6,536
Donald William Wuerl 51 1,661
Roger Michael Mahony 40 4,536
Luis Antonio Tagle 8 2,673
Christoph Schönborn 4 381
Cláudio Hummes 2 21
Jean-Louis Tauran 1 594
Tarcisio Bertone 1 486
Willem Jacobus Eijk 0 1,268

Notes: Seemingly genuine Twitter accounts that I found for the cardinals who can currently vote for the pope (that is, cardinals under the age of 80).  Follower counts valid as of March 12, 2013. Tweet counts shouldn't change until the next pope is elected.

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