During a press conference held earlier today, the announcement was made of Pope Benedict's official Twitter handles, available in eight different languages. All languages will be simultaneously published for each tweet.The Pope's first tweets will be answering questions about the faith sent to him via the Twitter hashtag #askpontifex, and will be published on December 12th, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Initially tweets will be published with the Wednesday general audiences, although they may subsequently become more frequent.
The Twitter handles for the Pontiff are:
Pope Benedict joins a list of many leaders of the Catholic church who have joined Twitter to share their message of the gospel of Jesus Christ, 140 characters at a time. Bishop Farrell joined Twitter earlier this Fall, and he can be followed at @Bishop_Farrell. Some other notables on Twitter are Timothy Cardinal Dolan (@CardinalDolan), Sean Cardinal O'Malley of Boston (@CardinalSean), and Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles (@ArchbishopGomez).
You can also find the Diocese of Dallas on Twitter at @dallascath.
The Vatican Information Service released extracts of a Note explaining the presence of the Holy Father on Twitter [emphasis added]:
"The Pope's presence on Twitter is a concrete expression of his conviction that the Church must be present in the digital arena. ... The Pope's presence on Twitter can be seen as the 'tip of the iceberg' that is the Church's presence in the world of new media. The Church is already richly present in this environment – there exist a whole range of initiatives from the official websites of various institutions and communities to the personal sites, blogs and micro-blogs of public church figures and of individual believers. The Pope's presence on Twitter is ultimately an endorsement of the efforts of these 'early adapters' to ensure that the Good News of Jesus Christ and the teaching of his Church is permeating the forum of exchange and dialogue that is being created by social media. His presence is intended to be an encouragement to all Church institutions and people of faith to be attentive to develop an appropriate profile for themselves and their convictions in the 'digital continent'. The Pope's tweets will be available to believers and non-believers to share, discuss and to encourage dialogue. It is hoped that the Pope's short messages, and the fuller messages that they seek to encapsulate, will give rise to questions for people from different countries, languages and cultures".
"Part of the challenge for the Church in the area of new media is to establish a networked or capillary presence that can effectively engage the debates, discussions and dialogues that are facilitated by social media and that invite direct, personal and timely responses of a type that are not so easily achieved by centralized institutions. Moreover, such a networked or capillary structure reflects the truth of the Church as a community of communities which is alive both universally and locally. The Pope's presence on Twitter will represent his voice as a voice of unity and leadership for the Church but it will also be a powerful invitation to all believers to express their 'voices', to engage their 'followers' and 'friends' and to share with them the hope of the Gospel that speaks of God’s unconditional love for all men and women".
"In addition to the direct engagement with the questions, debates and discussions of people that is facilitated by new media, the Church recognizes the importance of new media as an environment that allows to teach the truth that the Lord has passed to His Church, to listen to others, to learn about their cares and concerns, to understand who they are and for what they are searching. ... It is for this reason that it has been decided to launch the Pope's Twitter channel with a formal question and answer format. This launch is also an indication of the importance that the Church gives to listening and is a warranty of its ongoing attentiveness to the conversations, commentaries and trends that express so spontaneously and insistently the preoccupations and hopes of people".