Pope Francis’ new Instagram account has proved to be an astonishing success, acquiring more than ten thousand followers within 30 minutes of going live and over a million followers within hours. The account launch comes a few weeks after Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom met the Pope at the Vatican. The Instagram account was intentionally established during the Year of Mercy, allowing the Jubilee to enter “into social media in a very concrete and natural way” .
“Instagram will help recount the Papacy through images, to enable all those who wish to accompany and know more about Pope Francis’ pontificate to encounter his gestures of tenderness and mercy,” said Mgr. Dario E. Viganò, prefect of the Secretariat for Communications.
The official Instagram account has the handle @Franciscus – which is Latin for Francis – and will feature photos from L’Osservatore Romano, as well as short videos. “In this way we can show those aspects of closeness and inclusion that Pope Francis lives every day,” said Mgr Viganò..
Francis’ inaugural post featured a photo of the Pope reverently kneeling in prayer with a simple request for his followers: “Pray for me”, translated into nine languages. The Vatican’s social media department will run the account on behalf of Pope Francis, who admitted he does not know how to use a computer.
Pope Francis’ Instagram account is his latest engagement with social media, though he is not the first pope to do so. In December 2012, Benedict XVI inaugurated the @Pontifex Twitter account with the Tweet: “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.” The first papal Twitter account was continued by his successor, Pope Francis, who currently tweets in nine languages and has over 26 million followers.