- (Photo: Reuters/ )
The official Pope Twitter handle will be @pontifex starting Dec. 12 when Pope Benedict XVI is set to launch his own Twitter account, joining the massive social network with the mission to enlighten the masses and answer questions about faith.
The 85-year-old leader of the Roman Catholic Church, which has about 1.2 billion adherents worldwide, will post under the handle "@pontifex". The page itself is already live, and has attracted over 110,000 followers as of Monday morning. Twitter has over 500 million active users worldwide.
"The handle is a good one. It means 'pope' and it also means 'bridge builder,'" said Greg Burke, senior media adviser to the Vatican.
The Vatican clarified that Pope Benedict will not be posting idle thoughts, which Twitter is most known for, but will offer spiritual advice whenever he has the time. The media adviser also confirmed that it will be the pontiff himself writing up responses to questions sent with the hashtag "#askpontifex".
"All the pope's tweets are the pope's words. Nobody is going to be putting words into his mouth," Burke clarified. The pope will address major world events, including natural disasters in his tweets, and his messages will primarily come out of his weekly general audience and Sunday blessings.
Benedict's tweets however are going to be translated in a number of languages, including Spanish, English, Italian, Portuguese, German, Polish, Arabic, French, and other languages will be added in the future.
"This is the new market of ideas and the Church has to be there. We want to use any method to spread the message. It's cost-effective and not very labor intensive and it is aimed at young people," Burke continued.
Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, head of the Vatican's communications commission, admitted that Twitter's short message structure could pose a challenge when it comes to addressing important spiritual questions, but insisted that Twitter still offers a uniquely personal way to connect with the leader of the Roman Catholic Church.
"Reducing the pope's message to 140 characters is definitely a challenge but we have seen that a profound thought can also be expressed in a brief Biblical passage," Celli said. "We can see this as sparks of truth or pellets of wisdom."
Reuters noted that the pope's Twitter page will follow a yellow and white design, which are the colors of the Vatican, but may change during different liturgical seasons of the year and when he visits other countries on official trips.
The Vatican also confirmed that extra steps have already been taken to protect Pope Benedict XVI's Twitter account from hackers.