Pope Benedict will make Twitter debut with @pontifex

Greg Burke Holy Sees secretary of state media advisor Credit Estefania Aguirre CNA CNA500x320 Vatican Catholic News 12 3 12 Greg Burke speaks to the media about the Pope's new Twitter account at a Dec. 3, 2012 press conference. | Estefania Aguirre-CNA.

The Pope's Twitter account will be @pontifex and will start on Dec. 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Vatican representatives announced.

The news of the 85-year-old tweeting came out weeks ago, but officials finally revealed the account's name and that it will be launched on the Marian feast day, which they said was a coincidence.

But instead of informing people of his favorite band and other trivia, the Pope's goal will be to impart spiritual messages to people around the globe.

The official announcement of the account was made at a Dec. 3 news conference.

Greg Burke, who was recently appointed media advisor to the Holy See's Secretary of State, explained that the name was chosen because pontifex means both "Pope and bridge builder," and the Holy Father desires to reach out to everyone with the initiative.

On Dec. 12, Pope Benedict will personally tweet, but after that assistants will tweet content he approves.

"They will be his words and no one will be putting words in his mouth," Burke explained. "My personal input will be to see that it happens as often as possible."

Security will be dealt with if any problems occur, Burke said, adding that it's an issue that the Vatican website deals with on a daily basis.

"There are many imitators out there - some of them are good willed, some of them are not," he said.

The initiative will not cost the Vatican much money since they already have the manpower.

The Pope's account is expected to be launched at around noon, after the weekly general audience, and the inaugural day will feature answers to a handful of chosen questions related to faith, in honor of the ongoing Year of Faith.

"I think it's a great means, despite the fact that the Vatican has been cautious about doing it with the Pope, because it's one thing for a movie star or soccer player to do it and it's another thing for the Pope to put his name on tweets," Burke said.

"But I still think it's a great way to reach a whole lot of people, and the more we can do it, the better."

The account will include tweets in seven languages besides English. Those languages are Spanish, Arabic, German, Polish, French, Portuguese and Italian.

The president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, said that he "loves it that the Pope will have a Twitter account, and it's going to portray what he carries in his heart."

"He wants to be, in a discrete way, involved in man's search for answering questions," Archbishop Celli remarked. "He has a desire to dialogue with man and help him find again a meaning for his own life."

But critics question how the Pope's messages can be reduced to only 140 characters.

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"That's not my problem," Archbishop Celli replied. "My problem is to give a profound human depth to our communication," he added.

"I don't want to give an excessive tribute to modernity nor advertise Twitter, but it's our desire to enter into dialogue with the men and women of today."

Currently with 1 billion people or one-seventh of the world's population uses Facebook, in contrast with Twitter's 500 million users.

But Burke thinks that Pope Benedict XVI will reach more people this way and that a Facebook account would be "too personal."

"I would be surprised if someone like the Pope who speaks so much publicly didn't have a Twitter account," he said.

"His page will change from time to time depending on the season, so now it'll be related to Advent," added Burke.

The Secretary of State media advisor also foresees the Twitter account being "extremely helpful to follow up on emergencies."

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Archbishop Celli noted that most Twitter users are aged 18 to 34, and that the Pope wants to better engage with that segment of the population.

Pope Benedict's English-language Twitter account had 158,000 followers as of Monday evening at 6:30 p.m. Rome time.

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