.- Pope Benedict XVI made his debut on Twitter today, sending out a greeting and a blessing as his first tweet to his “followers.”
“Dear friends, I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart,” read his first tweet, sent around noon Rome time from the Paul VI Hall.
He sent his tweet on a mobile tablet device at the end of his Dec. 12 general audience.
His account, @pontifex, already has over 1.2 million followers, with accounts in eight languages. The English-language feed alone has more than 852,000 followers.
He will respond today to three questions submitted over the last week or so, and he has already responded to two.
The first asked “how can we celebrate the Year of Faith better in our daily lives?”
He responded, “By speaking with Jesus in prayer, listening to what he tells you in the Gospel and looking for him in those in need.”
In his third tweet he responded to the despair and isolation prevalent in modern culture: “How can faith in Jesus be lived in a world without hope?”
Pope Benedict answered that “We can be certain that a believer is never alone. God is the solid rock upon which we build our lives and his love is always faithful.”
His latest tweet says that to be more prayerful among the busy demands of life, one should “offer everything you do to the Lord, ask his help in all the circumstances of daily life and remember that he is always beside you.”
In addition to English, Pope Benedict is tweeting in Spanish, Arabic, French, German, Italian, Polish and Portuguese. In the Arabic world, 9,600 people are following the Pope.
Monsignor Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, told CNA Dec. 12 that the Pope's use of Twitter will normally be tied to his Angelus and general audience addresses.
“He will also be formulating a tweet that encapsulates the core teaching of an audience or an Angelus; that's where we'll see most of the normal, regular engagement over the next while.”
He also reported the communications council is pleased by the extraordinary response to the papal tweets.
“The numbers are very gratifying … and hopefully they will re-tweet, so that the penetration goes out farther.”
In English alone, his first tweet has been re-tweeted 43,000 times in the seven hours since its debut.
Msgr. Tighe said his office is using the image of the farmer sowing the seed to reflect on the Twitter initiative.
“In sharing the Word of the Gospel, we know that it will touch the hearts of people, maybe in the most unlikely context and settings.”
Updated on Dec. 12, 2012 at 1:59 p.m. MST. Adds new interview with Msgr. Tighe on the plans for Pope's account and the way the communications council sees the initiative.