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Armando Franca/AP
Follow Monday

Pope joins Twitter at @pontifex - but won't tweet until next week

Benedict XVI has registered seven accounts, each to allow tweeting in various languages – but won’t start yet.

POPE BENEDICT XVI will join Twitter from December 12, with regular tweets in eight languages from the account @pontifex – just in time for Christmas, the Vatican said on Monday.

“The first tweets will be answers to questions sent to the pope on matters of faith. The public can start sending them starting now,” the Vatican said.

The account already has almost 50,000 followers, with numbers rising quickly immediately after the announcement.

Users can submit questions on faith-related matters to be answered by the Pontiff, using the hashtag #askpontifex.

An introductory message read: “Welcome to the official Twitter page of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI.”

The tweets will be in Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese and Spanish and more languages could be added in future.

The username Pontifex is a nod to the Pope’s standing as the Bishop of Rome; the word ‘pontifex’, literally ‘pontiff’, was used to describe a member of the college of high priests of the Roman religion, similar in standing to the current College of Cardinals.

The Pope is also, therefore, known as the ‘Pontifex maximus’.

“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 in a statement.

It added that Benedict wanted “to ensure that the good news of Jesus Christ and the teaching of his Church is permeating the forum of exchange and dialogue that is being created by social media”.

Several leading Vatican prelates are already regular tweeters including Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, as the tradition-bound institution tries to reach a younger global audience.

Benedict last year launched a new Vatican information portal with a tweet from the Holy See’s Twitter account sent from an iPad. A bemused pope could be seen in images of the event being shown by prelates how to tap on the device.

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