THE Vatican has finally revealed the Twitter account name of the Pope.

Pope Benedict's new handle on the social network will be @pontifex, beating other contenders that had been considered to showcase the thoughts of one of the world's most visible leaders.

The Pope already has 1.2 billion followers in the standard sense of the word, but next week he will be able to amass another type when he enters the brave new world of Twitter.

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The Vatican said yesterday the Pope will start tweeting on December 12.

"The handle is a good one. It means 'Pope' and it also means 'bridge builder'," said a Vatican spokesman.

Among the other handles Vatican officials had reportedly considered was @BenedictusPPXVI, but they opted for something linked to the office of the papacy.

The papal tweets will be spiritual, the Vatican said.

And even though Benedict is not the kind of person who walks around with a Blackberry or iPad, the spokesman said "all the Pope's tweets are the Pope's words. Nobody is going to be putting words into his mouth."

The first papal tweets will be answers to questions sent to #askpontifex, and the tweets will be going out in Spanish, English, Italian, Portuguese, German, Polish, Arabic and French. Other languages will be added in the future.

Primarily the tweets will come from the contents of his weekly general audience, Sunday blessings and homilies on major Church holidays. They will also include reactions to major world events.

Benedict will be pushing the button on his first tweet himself on December 12 but, in the future, most will be typed in by aides and he will sign off on them.

While the Pope will be one of the world's most high-profile tweeters and have many followers, he will not be following anyone himself.

To reduce the chance of hacking, the Vatican said only one computer will be used to tweet from.