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The pope joins the twitterverse as @pontifex

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Communication problems

Pope Benedict’s seven-year papacy has been marred by communications mishaps and misunderstandings on subjects ranging from his attitude toward Islam, his position on condoms and the prevention of AIDs, and the worldwide pedophile-priest sex-abuse scandals.

The Vatican is trying to reach out to an increasingly Internet-savvy audience and has already established a presence on YouTube and Facebook.

Twitter will help disseminate a clearer, more easily understandable message to Twitter’s 140 million regular users, 40 percent of whom are between the ages of 18 and 34.

“There is a strong desire by the pope to enter into a dialogue with the men and women of today,” said Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, the president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

The initiative proved spectacularly successful on its first day, before the pope had even sent his first tweet – within hours he had more than 130,000 followers, with bookmakers like Ladbrokes predicting that he would reach the 1 million mark by Christmas.

Despite his newfound enthusiasm for new media, the pope will not succumb to the sort of obsession that strains relationships and workplaces around the world, officials said.

“The pope is not the kind of person who, when they are in a meeting or at lunch, looks at his BlackBerry to see if there are new messages. He’s not walking around with an iPad,” said Greg Burke, the Vatican’s media consultant.

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