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Pope tweets farewell as he leaves Vatican

Michael Kappeler / EPA

"Thank you for your love and support," Pope Benedict XVI, the first pope to join Twitter, tweeted on Thursday, right as it was time to leave the Vatican by helicopter on his last day as pontiff. "May you always experience the joy that comes from putting Christ at the centre of your lives." The papal Twitter account, @Pontifex, will be suspended until his successor is elected.

Like his prior tweets, the pope's last message went out in nine languages, across his various Twitter accounts.

Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi told the Associated Press that it will be up to the next leader of the Catholic Church whether or not he will use the @Pontifex Twitter account. "The Twitter account @pontifex was created for the exclusive use of the pope," Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, previously stated on the Vatican Radio.

It is unclear what will happen to the 1.5 million followers amassed by the main @Pontifex Twitter account. (There are an additional 1.2 million followers or so across the non-English versions of the Twitter feed.)

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