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Pope reaches out to followers on Twitter

Benedict XVI will send out inaugural tweet on December 12, with subsequent updates likely to come from Vatican staffers.
Last Modified: 03 Dec 2012 16:22
The @Pontifex account has not yet been officially verified by the micro-blogging service [Al Jazeera]

Pope Benedict XVI is not due to send out his first tweet until next week, but his official Twitter account has already broken the 90,000 follower mark.

The Vatican announced on Monday that the 85-year-old pontiff will send out his first 140-character message on December 12, the feast of Madonna of Guadalupe.

"The Twitter handle is @pontifex. It's a good name I think. It means 'pope' and it means 'bridge builder' at the same time. It suggests unity, the pope united not only with Catholics but also with all men and women of good will," said Greg Burke, senior media adviser to the Vatican.

The account has yet to be verified by the micro-blogging service itself, but the first papal tweets are slated to be answers to questions sent to the hash-tag #askpontifex.

The tweets will be sent out in Spanish, English, Italian, Portuguese, German, Polish, Arabic and French, with other languages to be added at future dates.

"How often will the pope tweet? The answer to that is as often as the pope wants, we'll see. It is going to be regular and I hope it increases over time. Stay tuned is the answer to that. What will the pope tweet about? Whatever the pope wants to tweet about, but it is the pope, of course, it is going to be a spiritual message that we are going to be getting," said Burke.

Benedict will send out the inaugural tweet himself, but subsequent tweets consisting of contents of the pope's weekly general audience, Sunday blessings and homilies on major Church holidays, will come from his aides.

The micro-blogging service has seen several fake accounts set up for world leaders and celebrities in the past. Most notably, following the so-called Arab Spring protests of 2011, several parody accounts were set up for leaders and officials in Egypt, Libya and Syria.

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