Twitter will soon be the home of 140-character messages from a higher authority, Pope Benedict XVI, and the Catholic archdiocese overseeing Prince George's County is anticipating his arrival into the digital world.
"Part of the initiatives of the pope is to try to reach people where they are," said Brie Hall, communications manager for the Archdiocese of Washington, which oversees Prince George's County. "And since Twitter has such a large presence in the digital arena, this is just a good way of sharing the good news with people where they are."
The pope, who has been tweeting occasionally on the Vatican's Twitter news feed since last year, will launch his own personal Twitter feed at noon Dec. 12.
Within hours after the announcement was made Monday, the pope had more than 100,000 followers, according to the New York Times. By Tuesday afternoon, he had more than 410,000.
While Twitter is known for its lightning-fast dissemination of information and opinions—some of which are instantly regretted—it's doubtful that will be the case with @pontifex, the pope's new Twitter handle, according to The Guardian.
The handle, which means bridge-builder in Latin, was chosen not only for its meaning but also because many other pope-related handles were taken, according to The Times.
The Archdiocese of Washington tweets under the handle of @WashArchdiocese. Its account has 3,372 followers as of Tuesday.
To acknowledge the pope's Twitter announcement, @WashArchdiocese tweeted on Monday: "The Pope is trending right now worldwide. Are you following@Pontifex? Help spread the Good News!"
The long-awaited papal Twitter account will leave "little room for random ramblings by the pope, and will kick off with a Q&A session to show it truly is his voice," The Guardian reported.
The creation of the papal twitter account is the latest step in the Vatican's effort to embrace the digital world. The Vatican has a YouTube channel, a general Twitter account and a website, Pope2you, already set up, according to The Guardian.
While the Vatican hopes to especially draw young members of the Catholic faith, officials say that no one should expect to be followed or retweeted by the pope.
"He won't follow anyone for now," Greg Burke, a Vatican communications adviser, said at a news conference reported on by The Times. "He will be followed."
Monsignor Paul Tighe, the Vatican's secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communication, told The Guardian that Benedict will read and approve every tweet that goes out through the account.
The pontiff still writes in longhand and doesn't normally use a computer, according to a report on WHDH.com.
Beginning Monday, the pope app became available free through the Apple Store.
The announcement comes at the beginning of Advent, which in the Catholic Church is the time for preparing for the birth of Christ and also for his second coming, according to Hall. She said the pope's first tweet will fall on the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which is a day that is important to the conversion of Mexico to Catholicism, thus it is a day that represents people coming to Jesus.