Washington, Dec 12 (IANS) Pope Benedict XVI Wednesday took a bold step into the world of social media, when he issued his first tweet from his personal account using the handle @Pontifex - meaning "bridge builder" in Latin, CNN reported.
"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," the pope tweeted.
He followed it up with two more tweets.
"How can we celebrate the Year of Faith better in our daily lives?", which was followed by the answer: "By speaking with Jesus in prayer, listening to what he tells you in the Gospel and looking for him in those in need."
An hour after his first tweet, the pope had around 700,000 followers on his English account.
He is also tweeting in other languages, including Spanish, Portuguese and Arabic.
A Vatican official told CNN the pope would compose the tweets himself.
Monsignor Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, told Vatican Radio that the first tweet was "an extraordinary moment".
The first tweet had more than 2,000 retweets in under two minutes.
Anyone could send in a question to the pope's personal account via the hashtag #askpontifex or #B16.
Pope Benedict had last year launched the official Vatican news site on Twitter, @news_va_en, CNN said.
John Paul II, who preceded Benedict, was the first pontiff to use the internet. Pope Pius XI made the first papal radio broadcast in 1931. His successor, Pope Piux XII, made the first papal TV appearance in 1946.