Pope Benedict XVI to have his own personal Twitter account
The Pope is to have his own personal Twitter account, in the Vatican's latest move towards embracing new technology.
The Holy See denied that it was dumbing down Catholicism by squeezing the wisdom of the gospels into messages of 140 characters or less.
The Vatican is trying to reach out to an increasingly internet-savvy audience and has already established a presence on YouTube and Facebook.
Monsignor Paul Tighe, from the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, said that many of the themes contained in the Bible were "readily rendered in just 140 characters".
"To those who say it's dumbing down, no, this is entry level, to provoke people's interest and to invite them then to follow the message and read the text," he told Vatican Radio.
"Many of the key gospel ideas are readily rendered in 140 characters – this is not the only way the Church speaks but it's an avenue that is open to us and it's pithy, succinct and it's one I think that we're quite good at." The Pope's Twitter account is likely to be @BenedictusPPXVI, the Italian media said.
He is not expected to personally write every message, but he will authorise them before they are sent out by Vatican aides.
"Naturally he will approve every message," said Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, the president of the Pontifical Council.
Exactly when the Pope's account will be opened still had to be decided, said Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, although he said "the green light" for the project had been given.
The Vatican already has a Twitter presence, @Pope2YouVatican, which Benedict XVI is using to send a tweet once a day throughout the 40 days of Lent, starting on Ash Wednesday.
"The idea was very simply to try and use Twitter to share with people the essence of the Pope's message for Lent, so over the 40 days of Lent to tweet every day one of the ideas of this message," Msgr Tighe said.
The 84-year-old pontiff sent out his first ever tweet in June last year, when he announced the launch of a new Vatican website, www.news.va.
Vatican officials said he was "in awe" of the technology as he tapped his finger on an iPad to launch the new portal, which brings together Vatican radio, television, print and online news material.