Pope's Twitter handle (screengrab)

Pope Benedict XVI has launched his own Twitter account @Pontifex, Latin for pope and bridge-builder, and will start tweeting in eight languages on 12 December, the feast day of the Madonna of Guadaloupe.

The pope will be joining the twitterati with a questions-and-answers on faith issues in 140 characters.

"The handle is a good one. It means 'pope' and it also means 'bridge builder'," said Greg Burke, senior media adviser to the Vatican.

"The pope wants to reach out to everyone," he said.

The tweets will be in Spanish, English, Italian, Portuguese, German, Polish, Arabic and French.

"We are going to get a spiritual message. The pope is not going to be walking around with a BlackBerry or an iPad and no one is going to be putting words into the pope's mouth. He will tweet what he wants to tweet," Burke said.

The leader of the Catholic Church will not send the tweets himself but will sign off on them before they are sent. He has already gathered 16,711 followers.