Pope Benedict, 84, Sends His First Twitter Message on IPad

Pope Benedict XVI, who at 84 still handwrites his speeches rather than use a computer, today used an Apple Inc. iPad to send his first post on Twitter.

The pontiff tapped in English on the tablet device: “Dear Friends, I just launched News.va. Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ! With my prayers and blessings, Benedictus XVI.”

Within three hours, the pope had more than 15,000 followers, yet was not following anyone.

This is not the first time Benedict has reached out to cyberspace. The octogenarian pope is already a user of YouTube, MySpace and Facebook in an effort by the Roman Catholic Church to lure disenchanted youth into the Church’s fold. Catholics were overtaken for the first time last year by the world’s 1.1 billion Muslims, according to the Vatican Statistical Yearbook.

The Vatican, the world’s smallest state and home to the Pope, has flip-flopped between embracing new technologies and standing by traditions, seeking to reach out to younger generations without estranging older, more traditional churchgoers.

Catholics who are more comfortable with technology than with church sacraments can use a $1.99 iPhone application, not endorsed by the Vatican, to help get through the process of confession. Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said in February 2009, when the application drew attention, that an iPhone is no substitute for a priest.

The application, available on Apple Inc.’s iTunes store, walks users through an examination of their conscience, including a review of past actions and identification of sins.

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