VATICAN CITY — On Monday, the Vatican announced that Pope Benedict XVI, 85, would begin posting messages on Twitter next week under the handle @pontifex, a term for pope that means bridge-builder in Latin. Within hours, he had more than 250,000 followers.
Benedict is expected to hit “send” on his first post at a general audience at the Vatican on Dec. 12 — a response to questions about matters of the faith that he is now accepting via the hashtag #askpontifex, officials said.
The Vatican acknowledged that it had chosen the @pontifex handle not only because of its meaning but also because many other handles had been taken.
The move is aimed at drawing in the church’s 1.2 billion followers, especially young people.
“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,” the Vatican said in a statement.
Just do not expect the pope to start following you on Twitter or retweeting your posts, Greg Burke, a former Fox News correspondent in Rome who was named a Vatican communications adviser this year, said at a news conference.
“He won’t follow anyone for now,” Burke added. “He will be followed.”
The messages will mostly feature the contents of the pope’s speeches at his weekly general audience and Sunday blessings, as well as homilies on major holidays and reaction to major world events, like natural disasters.