Pope Benedict has some previous experience at tweeting, having launched the official Vatican news site on Twitter, @news_va_en, in June of last year.
Other religious leaders have found great success with Twitter. The 140-character limit for tweets allows for short messages, perfect for small verses of scripture or inspiration.
The Dalai Lama (@DalaiLama), Rick Warren (@RickWarren), Joel Osteen (@JoelOsteen) and scores of other religious leaders spread their messages via the site.
A commentary written by Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi for Vatican Radio last week said: "140 characters -- the number contained in a tweet -- are quite a few. Most of the verses of the Gospel have less; the beatitudes are much shorter. A little concision isn't bad."
He added that while short messages on Twitter could not carry the whole teachings of the Catholic Church, they would help spread the word to those who wanted to hear.
"Of course the world will not be saved by tweets but among a billion baptised Catholics and among the seven billion people of the world; several million people will be able to feel the Pope is closer in this way too, hearing him say a word for them, a spark of wisdom to bear in their minds and hearts and to share with their twitter friends," he wrote. "A new service of the Gospel."
While Benedict is the first Catholic pope to take to Twitter, he isn't the first twitterized pope. That honor goes to His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, the 118th pope of the Coptic Church of Egypt. But Pope Tawadros has around 6,300 Twitter followers; Benedict had tens of thousands on his first day out.
John Paul II, who preceded Benedict, was the first pontiff to use the Internet, and the 20th century saw a string of other milestones for popes using technology to reach the masses. Pope Pius XI made the first papal radio broadcast in 1931. His successor, Pope Pius XII, made the first papal television appearance in 1946.