The Pope joins Twitter for first time and racks up 70,000 followers within hours (only 1.2billion to go then)The official account went live today and was deluged with followersThe Pope will begin tweeting on December [email protected] handle means both 'Pope' and 'Bridge builder'
14:16 GMT, 3 December 2012
God's representative on Earth will soon be spreading his holy message via Twitter
He already has 1.2 billion 'followers' in the standard sense of the word but the Pope now has another type after entering what for any 85-year old is the brave new world of the social media site.
It was today announced that Pope Benedict's official handle on Twitter will be @Pontifex and within hours of the account going live this morning, the feed had attracted more than 70,000 followers.
Spiritual: Most of the tweets will be updates on his weekly general audience, Sunday blessings and homilies on major Church holidays
Pope Benedict XVI will begin tweeting from December 12, with regular tweets in eight languages from the account
Even though the Pope will not begin tweeting until December 12, the feast of the Madonna of Guadalupe, he is already trending.
Greg Burke, senior media advisor to the Vatican said @Pontifex is appropriate for a number of reasons.
'The handle is a good one. It means “pope” and it also means “bridge builder”,' he said.
'The Pope wants to reach out to everyone,' he told a news conference.
The first papal tweets will be answers to questions sent to @askPontifex.
The tweets will be going out in
Spanish, English, Italian, Portuguese, German, Polish, Arabic and
French. Other languages will be added in the future.
Livery: The official account features Vatican livery and images of the city state, as well as the Pope's signature
'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,' Burke said.
Primarily the tweets will come from the contents of his weekly general audience, Sunday blessings and homilies on major Church holidays. They will also include reaction to major world events, such as natural disasters.
Benedict will be sending his first tweet himself on December 12 but in the future most will be written by aides and he will sign off on them before they are sent in his name.
But while the Pope will be one of the world's most high-profile tweeters and have many followers, he will not be following anyone himself.
The Pope's Twitter page is designed in yellow and white – the colours of the Vatican, with a backdrop of the Vatican and his picture. It may change during different liturgical seasons of the year and when he is away from the Vatican on trips.
The Vatican said precautions had been taken to make sure the Pope's certified account is not hacked. Only one computer in the Vatican's secretariat of state will be used for the tweets.
Pope Benedict XVI blessed the possibilities of social media last year but warned it can lead to isolation
'The Pope's presence on Twitter is a concrete expression of his conviction that the Church must be present in the digital arena,' the Vatican said.
'This initiative is best understood in the context of his reflections on the importance of the cultural space that has been brought into being by the new technologies … the Pope's presence on Twitter can be seen as the 'tip of the iceberg' that is the Church's presence in the world of new media,' it said in a statement.
A few internet wags wryly observed the announcement. Writer Caitlin Moran, who has more than 330,000 followers, tweeted: 'So pleased I have more followers than The Pope (@Pontifex). He did only join ten minutes ago, but, still! I'M BIGGER THAN THE POPE!'
The Pope, who still writes his speeches and books by hand, has given a qualified blessing to social networking.
In a document issued last year, he said the possibilities of new media and social networks offered 'a great opportunity', but warned of the risks of depersonalisation, alienation, self-indulgence, and the dangers of having more virtual friends than real ones.
The Vatican decided against using a personal Facebook page for the pope because they thought it was too personal an interaction and would require more manpower to keep updated.
In 2009, a new Vatican website, www.pope2you.net, went live, offering an application called 'The Pope meets you on Facebook”, and another allowing the faithful to see the pontiff's speeches and messages on their iPhones or iPods.
The Vatican famously got egg on its face in 2009 when it was forced to admit that, if it had surfed the web more, it might have known that a traditionalist bishop whose excommunication was lifted had for years been a Holocaust denier.