VATICAN CITY

The Pope has racked up 40 million followers on Twitter, the Vatican said on Wednesday, underlining the Catholic leader's status as one of the world's biggest social media players.

The total, spread across accounts in nine languages, leaves Pope Francis neck and neck with his occasional online sparring partner US President Donald Trump (40.3 million followers), but still trailing the likes of Barack Obama (95 million) and Katy Perry (104 million).

A net nine million new Twitter users have followed the various @pontifex accounts in the last year, according to the Vatican, which views the micro-blogging site as increasingly important for communicating with the faithful and non-believers.

TWEETS

Pope Francis, 80, has become a star of the platform despite the dry, religious nature of most of his tweets.

His use of Twitter could also seem at odds with him regularly urging young people to give their smartphones a rest in favour of real-world communication.

The Argentine pontiff's Spanish account has most followers (14.6 million), followed by English (14 million).

A hugely popular Latin one has 843,000 (more than the German or Arabic feeds), much to the delight of the ancient language's dwindling band of teachers.

Pope Francis, who also counts five million followers on Instagram, is not the first pope to tweet.

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