Benedict XVI, the pope known for his hefty volumes of theology and lengthy encyclicals, is now trying brevity — spreading the faith through his own Twitter account.
The pontiff will tweet in eight languages starting Dec. 12 using his personal handle @pontifex, responding live to questions about faith during his weekly general audience, the Vatican said Monday.
Within 10 hours of the Vatican’s announcement, Benedict already had garnered nearly a quarter-million followers on the English version of @pontifex alone, with thousands more following him in the eight other language accounts.
All that, and he hadn’t sent a single tweet.
He may never hit the 1 billion faithful that the Catholic Church counts around the globe, but he’s odds-on to get 1 million followers by the end of the year, British bookmakers Ladbrokes said.
The pope sent his first tweet last year from a generic Vatican account to launch the Holy See’s news-information portal, and someone in his name tweeted daily during Lent, part of the Vatican’s efforts to increase the church presence in social media.
A personal Twitter account for the 85-year-old Benedict has been the subject of intense speculation ever since, and Monday’s news conference was packed, a strong indication of the interest it has generated.
Greg Burke, the Vatican’s communications adviser, said the handle @pontifex was chosen because it not only means pope in Latin, but also bridge-builder, suggesting unity.