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Blessed are they who follow as the pope starts tweeting

Pope Benedict XVI reaches out to the faithful and other followers, using the @pontifex Twitter account for spiritual questions and answers.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read
Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

Offering a blessing to his many followers, the pope's first tweet quickly traveled far and wide through the Twittersphere.

In the first few hours, the tweet picked up more than 38,000 retweets and was tagged as a favorite by nearly 13,000 people.

The first tweet from the head of the Roman Catholic church:

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.

But the pope had a bit of trouble tweeting on a tablet, according to Reuters.

A video of the event from Rome Reports shows that he may have tapped too hard on the tablet, preventing that first tweet from getting off the ground. Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli of the Vatican's communications department stepped in to send the tweet on its way.

The pope gets some help with his first tweet.
The pope gets some help with his first tweet. Rome Reports/YouTube video/Screenshot by CNET

Benedict XVI's @pontifex account stayed busy, with four additional tweets addressing two questions about faith sent using the #AskPontifex hashtag.

This isn't the pope's first time on Twitter. Last year, he tweeted a message to followers after the launch of the Vatican's Web portal. But this marks his first few tweets under his own official account, which was set up just last week.

So far, the new papal account has picked up more than 800,000 followers.

The Twitter handle @pontifex means "pope," as well as "bridge builder," according to a Reuters interview with Greg Burke, senior media advisor to the Vatican. Burke told a news conference that the papal tweets will all be spiritual in nature, and that the pope would tweet whenever and however the spirit moves him.