Pope blesses Internet flock with first Twitter message

Pope blesses Internet flock with first Twitter message

Pope Benedict XVI blessed his new Internet flock today with his first Twitter message in eight languages to the million-plus followers already signed up to receive the holy tweets.

"Dear friends, I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart," read the tweet, which the 85-year-old pope sent from a tablet at the end of his weekly general audience.

With his second and third tweets, the pope provided one of the questions sent to him and replied to it.

"How can we celebrate the Year of Faith better in our daily lives?" he wrote.

"By speaking with Jesus in prayer, listening to what he tells you in the Gospel and looking for him in those in need," he answered.

Since the pope last week announced that he would start tweeting under his official Latin title @pontifex, more than 683,000 people have registered to follow his main account in English.

The pope so far also has 174,000 followers for his Spanish account, 96,000 in Italian, 25,000 in Portuguese, 19,000 in German, 18,000 in French, 10,000 in Polish and 7,000 in Arabic.

"All the @Pontifex accounts cross one million Twitter followers minutes before the Pope sends his first Tweet", Claire Diaz-Ortiz, Twitter's social innovation manager who has worked closely with the Vatican ahead of the pope's Twitter debut, said in a tweet.

Within 40 minutes, his first English-language tweet was retweeted 15,600 times.
But despite this, the pope's start on Twitter failed to make it on the worldwide trending topics.

The Vatican has invited the pope's new Twitter fans to ask questions that the pontiff will try to answer in 140 characters or less.

The first tweet marks a milestone in Vatican communication efforts as it tries to disseminate the Catholic message worldwide -- especially to younger people.

Several leading Vatican prelates are already regular tweeters including Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture.

"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.

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