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Pope Benedict's first tweet: 'I bless all of you from my heart'

Pope Benedict XVI hit the one million Twitter follower mark on Wednesday as he sent his first tweet from his new account. NBCNews.com's Dara Brown reports.

After days of expectation and buildup, the leader of the world's billion-plus Roman Catholics finally did it: He tweeted.

Pope Benedict XVI sent his first message on Twitter at about 5:28 a.m. ET Wednesday to a perhaps somewhat different kind of follower.

"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," he said on his English-language account.

He also tweeted the same in seven other languages: Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, German, Polish, Arabic and French.

"How can we celebrate the Year of Faith better in our daily lives?" Benedict tweeted a little later, then added, "By speaking with Jesus in prayer, listening to what he tells you in the Gospel and looking for him in those in need."

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Greg Burke, the Vatican's senior adviser for communications, told NBC News that "part of the pope's job description is to spread the word and Twitter is turning out to be a great way to do that."

"The pope's using his first day on Twitter to answer questions about faith. That's in order to promote the year of faith which the pope has called so that Catholics can deepen their relationship with Christ," he added.

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His English-language account, @pontifex, had more than 685,000 followers at 6:15 a.m. ET, with more than a million if the followers on all his language accounts were added together. @pontifex only follows his accounts in other languages.

However, the pope still has a long way to go – on Twitter at least – to eclipse the likes of pop star Lady Gaga, who has more than 32 million followers.

PhotoBlog: More photos of the pope sending his first tweet

However, Burke suggested such comparisons missed the point.

"Twitter for us is not about the number of followers for the pope," he said, "it's about getting people to follow Christ."

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