After weeks of anticipation bordering on media frenzy, Pope Benedict solemnly put his finger to a computer tablet device on Wednesday and tried to send his first tweet — but something went wrong.
Images on Vatican television appeared to show the first try didn’t work. The pope, who still writes his speeches by hand, seems to have pressed too hard and the tweet was not sent right away. So, he needed a little help from his friends.
Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli of the Vatican’s communications department showed the pontiff how to do it, but the pope hesitated. Celli touched the screen lightly himself and off went the papal tweet.
“Dear friends, I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart,” he said in his introduction to the brave new world of Twitter.
The tweet was sent at the end of weekly general audience in the Vatican before thousands of people.
The tweets will be going out in Spanish, English, Italian, Portuguese, German, Polish, Arabic and French. Other languages will be added in the future.
The pope already had just over a million followers in all of the languages combined minutes before he sent his first tweet and the number was growing.
Later, after the audience was over and the television cameras turned off, the pontiff answered the first of three questions sent to him at #askpontifex.The first question answered by the pope was: “How can we celebrate the Year of Faith better in our daily lives?”
His answer: “By speaking with Jesus in prayer, listening to what he tells you in the Gospel and looking for him in those in need.” The pope won’t be following anyone else, the Vatican has said.
The Vatican says papal tweets will be little ‘pearls of wisdom’, which is understandable since his thoughts will have to be condensed to 140 characters, while papal documents often top 140 pages.
The Vatican said precautions had been taken to make sure the pope’s certified account is not hacked. Only one computer in the Vatican’s secretariat of state will be used for the tweets.
After Wednesday, Benedict won’t be pushing the button on his tweets himself. They will be sent by aides but he will sign off on them.