Pope Benedict XVI to get a new type of follower on Twitter

Pope Benedict is joining Twitter Credit: Reuters

Pope Benedict already has 1.2 billion followers around the world as leader of the Catholic Church and soon he will get some more on Twitter.

Vatican officials have said the 85-year-old pontiff, who is known not to love computers and still writes most of his speeches by hand, will have his own account running soon.

He will not write the tweets himself, but he will sign off on them before they are sent in his name.

"It will be an officially verified channel," Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said.

The Pope's Twitter handle has not yet been revealed but it is expected to be @BenedictusPPXVI, his name and title in Latin.

A handle with this name has been registered and already has 3,366 followers without having sent any tweets.

The Pope has previously given a qualified blessing to social networking.

In a document issued last year, he said the possibilities of new media and social networks offered "a great opportunity", but warned of the risks of depersonalisation, alienation, self-indulgence, and the dangers of having more virtual friends than real ones.

The Pope's future tweets are likely to come from the contents of his weekly general audience, Sunday blessings and homilies on major Church holidays. They may also include reaction to major world events.

It is the latest of a series of attempts to spread God's message with the help of technology.

The Vatican already has its own account with over 105,000 followers. It tweets news updates and links from the Vatican radio website throughout the day.

Pope Benedict sent his first tweet from this account in June 2011:

In 2009, a Vatican website, www.pope2you.net, went live, offering an application called "The pope meets you on Facebook", and another allowing the faithful to see the pontiff's speeches and messages on their iPhones or iPods.

An official YouTube Channel has also been running since 2005.

With more than a billion loyal followers off-line, Pope Benedict could soon beat Lady Gaga's record of more than 31 million followers online.