VATICAN CITY -- Benedict XVI, the pope known for his hefty volumes of theology, 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 yesterday.
By 8:30 Monday night, Benedict had already garnered more than 292,000 followers on the English version of @Pontifex, with thousands more following him in the eight other language accounts.
All that, and he hadn't even sent a single tweet.
The pope sent his first tweet last year from a generic Vatican account to launch the Holy See's news information portal, part of efforts to increase the church presence in social media and spread the faith.
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. How often will the pope tweet? "As often as he wants," Burke said, adding that he hoped the tweeting would be frequent.
While the pope will push the button himself on Dec. 12, subsequent tweets will be sent by someone in the Vatican's secretariat of state. They will, however, all be approved by the pope, officials said.
Questions for the inaugural papal tweet can be submitted to #askpontifex, and the pope will likely respond to three to five of those sent from around the world, Burke said. Subsequent tweets are expected to remain spiritual in nature, taken from his teachings or homilies.