Pope Benedict XVI will next week start tweeting under the username @Pontifex in the Vatican’s bid to reach out to younger followers.
The pope will next week launch a personal Twitter account to spread his message and answer questions about faith – in 140 characters.
The first papal tweets will be sent out in Spanish, English, Italian, Portuguese, German, Polish, Arabic and French.
Greg Burke, 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’. Burke said the Pope will tweet, ‘as often as he wants.’
A twitter account has been set up in preparation for the Pope’s first tweet on December 12. The Pope’s twitter profile picture shows him waving cheerily in front of a photo of Vatican City.
The Pope’s account was only launched hours ago but he already has more than 99,000 followers.
A host of fake pope accounts already exist on Twitter. The hoax Pope Twitter account @BenedictusPPXVI has attracted a following of 2,500 – although it has never tweeted.
Vatican officials hope the fake accounts will stop once the official account is launched.
But Pope Benedict XVI is not entirely new to twitter. He tweeted from the official Vatican news site @news_va_en to launch the Vatican website last year.He tweeted: “Dear friends, I just launched News.va. Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ! With my prayers and blessings, Benedictus XVI.”
The Vatican has been increasing its presence in social media to try to spread the faith, particularly among the young.
Burke said: “The Pope wants to reach out to everyone.”