Pope signs on to Twitter

The Pope, aka @pontifex

Pope Benedict XVI already has 177,000 Twitter followers, and counting, even before he has officially started sending tweets.

The Vatican has announced that the 85-year-old pontiff will begin posting messages next week under the handle @pontifex, a term for pope that means bridge-builder in Latin.

Within hours, he had more than 177000 followers. The Catholic Church has around 1.2 billion members worldwide, potentially giving the Pope one of the biggest Twitter audiences.

Pope Benedict is expected to hit “send” on his first post at a general audience at the Vatican on December12 —– a response to questions about matters of the faith that he is now accepting via the hashtag #askpontifex.

The Vatican says it chose the @pontifex handle not only because of its meaning but also because many other handles had been taken.

The Pope’s presence on Twitter is a concrete expression of his conviction that the Church must be present in the digital arena. This initiative is best understood in the context of his reflections on the importance of the cultural space that has been brought into being by the new technologies.” the Vatican announcement says.

“The Pope’s presence on Twitter can be seen as the ‘tip of the iceberg’ that is the Church’s presence in the world of new media.”

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