(photo courtesy Getty Images)
VATICAN City -- Pope Benedict's entry to the social media website Twitter was perhaps the most publicised part of a battle that defined his papacy: how to win back believers in the developed world, eroded by cultural change and scandals including the abuse of children by priests.
After weeks of anticipation, Pope Benedict sent his first tweet reading: "Dear friends, I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart."
The tweet was sent when the 85-year-old pope tapped on a touch screen at the end of his weekly general audience in the Vatican before thousands of people in December.
Yet the pope chose not to announce his shock decision to resign on Twitter.
The Pope is likely to send his last tweet on February 28, his final day as pontiff before he departs the Vatican. During the 'Sede Vacante', when there is no pope, the @Pontifex account will be silent.
Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, who is head of the Vatican's communication department, is hoping that the new pope will tweet as well, as he feels it is a great way to communicate.
"During the days after the 28 no tweet will be sent because there is no pope to send a tweet," he said. "And so when the new pope will be elected, we are going to present to him such an opportunity.
"I repeat, I think that it is an opportunity. And the opportunity is to talk to the human beings, men and women of today that on many occasions are not facing an easy life."
The communications network Benedict put into place is readying for its busiest weeks yet.
The day he announced his resignation, hits to the Vatican's news website jumped from 14,000 to 190,000 in a day, forcing technicians to switch from one to four servers to prevent a crash.
"Today we have a lot of modern instruments to communicate," the Archbishop added. "We don't have any more a small phone, we have a smart phone.
"But at the same time human beings are experiencing solitude, loneliness. In such a moment of desert, of spiritual desert, I think that a 'drop of truth' (a tweet), a drop of spiritual values, I think that they are good and positive for the human being with.. who's really on the road and sometimes on the road of loneliness.
As head of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli oversees an office set up in the 1940s in response to the budding film industry but, under Benedict, added The Pope App, a Twitter account and a YouTube account to Vatican radio, television and press. He was very keen to introduce the pope to the delights of using a tablet.
"I was surprised because he (Pope Benedict) was looking at this instrument with sympathy and I would say joy," said Archbishop Celli. "I was explaining to him how it moves, how it works.
"And he was, I would say, joyfully impressed. And he was astonished about the possibilities that an IPad can offer today."
Anyone who has downloaded The Pope App onto their smart phone will be able to watch for the white smoke that heralds a new pontiff on a live camera stream trained on the chimney of the Sistine Chapel, maybe even Pope Benedict himself will be watching that stream on his tablet.