By Eric Marrapodi and Ben Wedeman, CNN
(CNN) - The Vatican revealed the new personal Twitter account for Pope Benedict XVI, @Pontifex, on Monday, meaning the leader of the global Catholic Church will officially join millions of people around the globe on the social media site.
The pope will answer a question about faith in his first tweet, slated for Wednesday, December 12, Vatican officials said. They said that anyone could send in a question via the hashtag #askpontifex or #B16. The Vatican said the initial tweets from the pope will come on Wednesdays in conjunction with his general audiences in Rome, but that the 140-character missals may become more frequent.
The formal announcement came in a press conference Monday morning at the Vatican with Catholic and Twitter officials.
"The Pope's presence on Twitter is a concrete expression of his conviction that the Church must be present in the digital arena,” the church said in a written statement to reporters. The pope’s account on Twitter, the statement said, “can be seen as the 'tip of the iceberg' that is the Church's presence in the world of new media.”
A Vatican official told CNN the pope will be composing the tweets for the new account himself. For the first tweet from the account, the pope will also press the button to send the tweet himself, but after that others will send the tweets on his behalf.
In June 2011 the pope sent his first tweet from the Twitter account for the Vatican news site, @news_va_en, to launch the new site http://www.news.va. He wrote, “Dear friends, I just launched News.va. Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ! With my prayers and blessings, Benedictus XVI.”
Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter
That signature had led some to guess that @BenedictusPPXVI would be the account name for the 85-year-old pope's personal account, although @Pope would have been fitting as well. (Benedictus PP XVI is the pontiff's signature in Latin, with the "PP" standing for papa, the Latin word for pope.)
With @Pontifex, which means "bridge builder" in Latin, the pope chose a handle with another name for the office he holds.
The details on the long-expected event were revealed at the press conference featuring Vatican officials, including spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi and Greg Burke, media adviser to the Secretariat of State, who were joined by Claire Díaz-Ortiz, who heads social innovation at Twitter. Burke is a relatively new addition to the Vatican staff, having been recruited away from the Fox News Channel, where he was Rome correspondent. Díaz-Ortiz has been influential in getting religious leaders to join the social networking site.
Other religious leaders have found great success with Twitter. The 140-character limit for tweets allows for short messages, perfect for small verses of scripture or inspiration.
The Dalai Lama (@DalaiLama), Rick Warren (@RickWarren), Joel Osteen (@JoelOsteen), and scores of other religious leaders utilize the site to spread their messages.
A Twitter spokeswoman said that religious leaders “punch above their weight” on the social networking site.
“An average religious leader has a rate of about 1 RT for every 500 followers, while a musician on Twitter would get one RT for every 30,000 followers,” said spokeswoman Rachael Horwitz, referring to retweets.
“We see a very high level of engagement with religious and spiritual content: followers respond to these topics with replies, retweets, and clicks on links much more often than they do other subjects,” she added.
While Benedict is the first Catholic pope to take to Twitter, he isn’t the first twitterized pope. That honor goes to His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, the 118th pope of the Coptic Church of Egypt. But Pope Tawadros has around 6,300 Twitter followers; Benedict has tens of thousands on his first day out.
John Paul II, who preceded Benedict, was the first pontiff to use the Internet, and the 20th century saw a string of other milestones for popes using technology to reach the masses. Pope Pius XI made the first papal radio broadcast in 1931. His successor, Pope Piux XII made the first papal television appearance in 1946.
CNN's Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the big stories
Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, said, "The initiative comes from the Pope's desire to utilize all opportunities for communication which technology offers and are characteristic in the world today," according to the semi-official newspaper of the Vatican, L'Osservatore Romano.
The paper reported that Celli went on to say the pope has stressed how God communicated with mankind through Jesus, who was a "communicator who addressed the people of his time, using their own language."
One outstanding question remains: What language will the pope use to tweet? When the Vatican sends out important documents, it often uses multiple languages to communicate with the billion-plus members of the Catholic Church. In addition to the English version, the Vatican news twitter feed also has Spanish, French and Italian versions. The appearance of eight pontifical accounts seems to suggest he will be tweeting in all eight languages.
The pope’s foray onto Twitter provoked us to ask “What would Jesus have tweeted?” by tweet. A few responses:
@bencnn @Pontifex Probably "Get off the twitter and do something useful you idiots!"— Hana N. (@hana161616) December 03, 2012
@bencnn @Pontifex Probably "Get off the twitter and do something useful you idiots!"
@bencnn for starters, Jesus would have invited more people to the last supper were Twitter at his disposal.— Vivian Salama (@vmsalama) December 03, 2012
@bencnn for starters, Jesus would have invited more people to the last supper were Twitter at his disposal.
@bencnn @Pontifex "Guys. Chill."— Dyna Moxie (@DynaMoxie) December 03, 2012
@bencnn @Pontifex "Guys. Chill."
What is world peace, no such thing, ask God *Daniel 8:25 and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many:
Has he found Adam and Eve YET ! Found no barn animals...
He is very concerned about his reputation after killing Mace Windu.
I presume that his tweets will not be considered "ex cathedra" statements but it will be interesting to see if latin texting abbreviations will become the next Gangnam Style rage.
@herrbert Maier Sorry about that Friend, something got lost in the translation. The barn door was open and no cow was peeking out ..... only a lamb. This was his Revelation.
Oh, look ! The Poop has ANOTHER new dress and hat. This guy(?) has more dresses and hats that the Queen of England or Imelda Marcos had shoes ! Why do these catholic men continue to wear fancy dresses, some with lace ? I'm sure the Poop heard that twitter (oh isn't that an appealing name for a pedophile) is a good way to meet young boys, from his other "associates" in the world's largest tax free Corporation. Halejulia Jeebus !
Re: new dress. Pope that's not fair! Now I'm envious!
How long before he tweets a pic of himself polishin' the old Bishop??
If he's that big on peace, he should give us a sign once and a while.
Should have DNA TESTED find out what side he is from !
At least the Pope-Mobile has a hired driver ... a guy his age tweeting and driving could be dangerous.
Nothing like 5 inch bullet proof glass to prove your faith in the gods.
Re: "there were no animals in the barn when Jesus was born" No, I think what he meant is that when Mary gave birth she was "flying low" and there were no cows in the barn.... only a lamb.
A phony Twitter account, managed by his people.
He checks in with friends with his fake FB account – Pal Patine.
I think that is cool.
those that deny science should not be able to use the fruits of science.
What science does the pope deny? I think you are confusing Catholicism with new earth evangelicals.
You must inform a lot about science and Church, many scientist were clergy men, monk or simply faithful people. Give a look on internet and you will find out what everyone should know.
I thought read somewhere he debunked the myth or was that Pat Robertson? (About creationism)
And his first twit is: "OMG, this is so cool."
I just banged another altar boy.
Herrbert, it's unfortunate that you've said he's done nothing for world peace. Since I follow news from http://www.news.va I'm absolutely certain he's done much for the cause of peace between peoples. Looking forward to his tweets.
Angela.. can you actually tell us what he has done to secure any world peace? did it work.. most of what I see and hear is the pope mainly offering prayer..
Just browse through http://www.news.va - One event I can think of recently is his visit to Lebanon, meeting with political and religious leaders of all varieties. He has held several such meetings in various regions of the world.
Then there is of course, World Youth Day, which happens every few years, where youth from all countries of the world gather together to volunteer in local communities, learn about the dignity of all people, and of course pray together. I've been to one such WYD in Sydney, and it was completely eye-opening to see over a million young people speaking all languages, camping out together in fields and in schools, with such joy and enthusiasm for life because of their faith.
Thought of a few other items I've seen within the last few weeks: Peter's Pence, which is an international collection benefiting charities serving the poor...or the recent meeting with justice officials concerning the just treatment of prisoners...or the conference on improving the lives of deaf persons....or his years of dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox, Anglicans, etc. towards Christian unity.
What is it – @Palpatine ?
This man has done nothing for world peace and is in a unique position to do so. His only contribution for the advancement of knowledge is his stated position that there were no animals in the barn when Jesus was born. Is this man for real?
You have no clue of what this man does for peace. Try looking up the Assisi meetings between Pope and other faith leaders.
KCfq58 .praying is all they can do.. what practical solutions can out of those meetings? do you know? Perhaps if we looked at each other as human beings rather than value each other as to what alien we believe we are associated with.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.