A top Vatican cardinal announced the death of Pope Benedict XVI in a Twitter message that later turned out to be bogus. The fake tweet and rumors of the Pope's death were immediately denied by the Vatican spokesman.

The announcement, originally in Italian and said to have been tweeted by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, secretary of state and the number two at the Vatican, appeared at around 1800 GMT saying: The Holy Father unexpectedly passed away this afternoon. We announce this with grief and consternation, the AFP reported. It was followed by similar tweets in Spanish, English and French.

Vatican spokesperson Federico Lombardi immediately denied the reports about the death of the Pope, who will turn 85 in April, terming them baseless and unworthy of attention.