VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI will join Twitter from December 12, with regular tweets in eight languages from the account @pontifex just in time for Christmas, the Vatican said on Monday.
"The first tweets will be answers to questions sent to the pope on matters of faith. The public can start sending them starting now," the Vatican said.
The account already has 2,435 followers, with numbers rising quickly immediately after the announcement. An introductory message read: "Welcome to the official Twitter page of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI."
The tweets will be in Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese and Spanish and more languages could be added in future.
"The pope's presence on Twitter is a concrete expression of his conviction that the Church must be present in the digital arena," the Vatican said in a statement.
It added that Benedict wanted "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".
Several leading Vatican prelates are already regular tweeters including Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, as the tradition-bound institution tries to reach a younger global audience.
Benedict last year launched a new Vatican information portal with a tweet from the Holy See's Twitter account sent from an iPad. A bemused pope could be seen in images of the event being shown by prelates how to tap on the device.