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Retweet prayers to @pontifex: The Pope joins Twitter

Pope Benedict XVI uses an iPad device at the Vatican in June.

The Pope is taking a leap of faith into cyberspace, and now we know where to find him.

The Vatican announced earlier this month that 85-year-old Pope Benedict XVI would open a Twitter account where he would share spiritual messages to a new generation of followers.

A Monday press conference revealed the Pope's twitter handle will be @pontifex and he'll post his first official tweet on Dec. 12.

But he isn't likely to post what he ate for breakfast or retweet your celebrity gossip.

According to the Vatican, It's an attempt to reach a broader audience with religious messages, "to try and share the Good News of Christ with those seeking answers to life's key questions on their computers, iPads, tablets or smartphones."

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And so it seems the most powerful religious leader in the world is joining forces with one of its most powerful platforms for news, arguments, and over-sharing.

The Pope will send the first Tweet himself but afterward staff will take over the typing.

"Although Benedict himself won't be worrying about the technicalities and won't be seen regularly checking his account, he will be selecting the messages to tweet," the release says.

Tweets will be in eight languages to start, with plans to add more in the future.

The Vatican reportedly considered using the handle @BenedictusPPXVI but ultimately it settled on the simpler term, which means 'pope' and 'bridge builder,' according to Greg Burke, senior media advisor to the Vatican.

The account has nearly 200,000 followers, even though it hasn't tweeted anything yet. A flurry of tweets directed at @pontifex has already begun, not all of which are friendly. Some users poked lighthearted fun at the Pope's hat, while others criticized the church's ideas and referenced abuse.

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High security measures are in place to ensure the official account isn't hacked. The Twitter company worked with the Vatican to create the account, and tweets will only be sent from one computer.

Of course, the pontiff tweeted once before to worldwide amusement when he launched the Vatican news website www.news.va, writing "Dear friends, I just launched News.va. Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ! With my prayers and blessings, Benedictus XVI."

The public can send questions to the Pope via Twitter using the hashtag #askpontifex.

Cheeky questions are already circulating, such as The Guardian's query: "Will I get excommunicated if I block you on Twitter?"

(Photo courtesy Reuters)

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