Pope Benedict XVI joins Twitter, holds blessings until Dec. 12


The ranks of Twitter users just got a whole lot holier. Pope Benedict XVI has officially joined the microblogging service under the handle @Pontifex. In fact, he joined it eight times – once each for issuing divine tweets in English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, Italian, French and Arabic. The Pope has already racked up more than 70,000 followers at the time of this writing – roughly 0.004 percent of the world’s Catholic population. That number will surely jump many time higher in the coming hours and days.

So far, Pope Benedict XVI has issued no tweets himself. That is likely to change soon, however, considering the Pope is an old hat at Twitter. (Update: The Vatican says Benedict XVI will begin tweeting on December 12.) Last year, the pontiff sent out his first-ever tweet from an Apple iPad to commemorate the launch of News.va, the Vatican’s online media hub.

“Dear Friends, I just launched www.news.va. Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ! With my prayers and blessings, Benedictus XVI,” reads Pope Benedict XVI’s first tweet.

News.va, as well as the Vatican’s YouTube channelFacebook page, and Flickr photo feed, are run by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Social Communication.The Council was established all the way back in 1948 with the declaration that the Church sees “the media as an outcome of the historical scientific process by which humankind ‘advances further and further in the discovery of the resources and values contained in the whole of creation.'”

The adoption of social media by religious leaders is, of course, nothing new. Most notable among them is the Dalai Lama, who has amassed more than 5.6 million followers and tweets about once or twice a week, on average.

Spreading Christianity’s “Word of God” works especially well, according to The New York Times, which notes that, “On average, verses in the King James Version are about 100 characters long, leaving room to slip in a #bible hashtag and still come in under the 140-character limit.”

In addition to his social media presence, Pope Benedict XVI also became the first pontiff to adopt green car technology with a new Popemobile based on a the all-electric Renault Kangoo Maxi ZE. The gas-free Popemobile will serve as Benedict XVI’s mode of transportation around his summer home in Castel Gandolfo, Italy, which is roughly five square miles in area – a good size for a car that can travel 105 miles on a single charge.