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Pope tweets for the first time

Pope Benedict XVI has tweeted for the first time, announcing the launch of a Vatican news information portal.

Benedict's tweet on Tuesday read: "Dear Friends, I just launched News.va Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ! With my prayers and blessings, Benedictus XVI".

The portal www.news.va for the first time aggregates information from the Vatican's various print, online, radio and television media. It's the latest effort by the Vatican to bring its evangelising message to a greater, internet-savvy audience and follows forays into Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Benedict put the site online himself by tapping an iPad, said Thaddeus Jones, project coordinator and an official with the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. Moments later the pope sent the tweet.

The 84-year-old pontiff was then shown the portal and its features in greater detail.

Mr Jones described him as "interested and impressed", and "clearly enjoying it".

"He was clearly in awe at the new technology," said Mr Jones. "It's a lighter moment but also an important one, it marks a new way of communicating."

Benedict has been bedevilled by communications woes during much of his six-year papacy, much of it the fault of a large Vatican bureaucracy that does not always communicate well internally.

Officials hope the new portal, while mostly designed to provide Vatican news in an easy-to-use setting to the outside world, might also improve the Vatican's own internal communications by sharing information.

The portal was launched for the feast day of St Peter and Paul, which falls on June 29, but officially begins with a vesper service June 28. Wednesday also marks the 60th anniversary of Benedict's ordination as a priest.

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