Pope’s followers increase before his 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 3:00 p.m. in Rome, up from fewer than 10 earlier Monday, 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 non-believers, essentially.”

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

This is not the first time Benedict has reached out to cyberspace in an effort by the Roman Catholic Church to lure more youth 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 non-personal Vatican account. He tapped in English on the tablet device: “Dear Friends, I just launched News.va. Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ! With my prayers and blessings, Benedictus XVI.”

Within three hours, the account had more than 15,000 followers, yet was not following anyone.

“We have had already experienced where we tweeted certain messages on behalf of the Pope,” said Monsignor Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communication. “And have seen people who were re-tweeting them, so apart from the direct reach, you have the indirect reach, which is so important.”

In 2010 the number of Catholics was surpassed for the first time by the 1.1 billion Muslims, according to the Vatican Statistical Yearbook.

More in Local News

Man, 29, injured by shots fired at Everett thrift store

The gunfire followed an argument in the parking lot of Value Village on Evergreen Way.

Police looking for leads in case of missing Snohomish man

Henry John Groeneveld, 63, was last seen on Monday, when he said something about going to “the river.”

Separate Everett fires send man to hospital, damage boat

The man was hospitalized for smoke inhalation from the early morning fire.

Police: He made an appointment, then tried to rob the bank

A lawyer is accused of donning a fake beard and telling a teller that a gunman was outside.

Drive-by shooting reported in Marysville neighborhood

Police said there was no evidence to indicate it was targeted at a specific person or property.

Celebrating the origins of Christmas

LDS church holds annual nativity festival featuring more than 600 sets.

Trooper’s car struck when he was arresting man for DUI

She drove away but was arrested for investigation of driving under the influence and hit-and-run.

Inslee’s budget solves school funding with help from carbon

His budget would use reserves to boost education, then replenish them with a carbon tax or fee.

Lynnwood robbery leads to lockdown at Edmonds schools

Edmonds police said it was just a precaution as they search around Edmonds-Woodway High School.

Most Read