Pope's followers surge by the minute before Pontifex's first tweet

ROME — Pope Benedict XVI's new Twitter account is attracting a surge in followers after the Vatican announced that the pontiff will send his first tweet next week.

The account Pontifex, Latin for "pontiff," had 70,000 followers as of 3 p.m. Monday in Rome, up from fewer than 10 earlier in the day, Benedict's official Twitter page showed. On Dec. 12 the pope, 85, will send his first message in eight languages, the Vatican said.

"We have been amazed by how quickly the numbers shoot up," Claire Diaz-Ortiz, Twitter's manager of social innovation, said in an interview after a presentation of the account in Rome on Monday. "We want him to have a successful experience on the platform, and that means finding believers, connecting with believers and reaching out to nonbelievers, essentially."

Benedict's initial tweets will be on Wednesdays, when he holds his general audience at St. Peter's, and could become more frequent, the Vatican said. Other official accounts in different languages could be added to the initial ones of English, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, German, Polish and Arabic, the Vatican said

This is not the first time Benedict has reached out to cyberspace in an effort by the Roman Catholic Church to lure more youths into the church's fold.

On June 28 last year, the pope used an Apple iPad to send his first post on Twitter through a nonpersonal Vatican account.

Pope's followers surge by the minute before Pontifex's first tweet 12/03/12 [Last modified: Monday, December 3, 2012 9:00pm]

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