Pope Benedict Launches Twitter Account

Pope Benedict Launches Twitter Account

The Pope is to launch a personal Twitter account to spread his message to an entirely different type of follower.

The pontiff is to start tweeting on December 12 from an account set up on the social networking website under the Twitter handle @Pontifex.

The first papal tweets will be answers to questions sent to #@Pontifex and will be sent out in Spanish, English, Italian, Portuguese, German, Polish, Arabic and French. More languages are to be added in the future.

Greg Burke, the senior media adviser to the Vatican, said: "We are going to get a spiritual message. The pope is not going to be walking around with a Blackberry or an iPad and no one is going to be putting words into the pope's mouth. He will tweet what he wants to tweet."

He said the @Pontifex Twitter name was chosen because it "means 'pope and it also means 'bridge builder'".

The tweets will come from his weekly general audience and Sunday blessings and will include reaction to world events, such as natural disasters.

Twitter has attracted a host of fake pope accounts. The Twitter handle @BenedictusPPXVI set up earlier this year has attracted a following of 2,500 without uttering a single tweet.

More recently, @PopeBenedictXVI has appeared, attracting a flock of 804 followers.

In the standard sense of the word, the Pope already has 1.2 million followers worldwide, within hours of the launch of his Twitter account, he had more than 23,000 followers.

Vatican officials have said they hope that all the fake accounts will stop once the official account launches.

Pope Benedict XVI has already tweeted from the official Vatican news site @news_va_en to launch the Vatican website.

On that occasion in June 2011, he posted: "Dear friends, I just launched News.va. Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ! With my prayers and blessings, Benedictus XVI."

The 86-year-old is unlikely to send the tweets himself but will sign them off before they are posted.

Mr Burke said: "The Pope wants to reach out to everyone."

The Dalai Lama has been on Twitter since 2010 and has more than nine million followers.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has yet to open a personal Twitter account. Messages are sent out under the Twitter name @lambethpalace.