Pope Francis has added Instagram to his repertoire of innovative evangelizing instruments, garnering more than one million followers during the first twelve hours of his life on the social media site.
The most mediatic Pope in history already had his own news agency, as well as a highly active Twitter account in nine different languages, boasting 27.7 million total followers as of Sunday, March 20.
His Instagram account rounds out his media presence, with his first post announcing his entry into the network as “franciscus,” the pontiff’s name in Latin.
I am beginning a new journey, on Instagram, to walk with you along the path of mercy and the tenderness of God.
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) March 19, 2016
To create his startup profile, Pope Francis was assisted by Kevin Systrom, the CEO and co-founder of Instagram, and Msgr. Lucio Adrian Ruiz, secretary of the Vatican’s department of Communications. He launched the account on March 19, the feast of Saint Joseph and third anniversary of the beginning of his pontificate.
In 2014, Pope Francis was declared the most influential Twitter user on the planet, a status calculated from his number of followers and more importantly the average number of times his messages are retweeted, which at the time was 17,000. Since then, the pontiff has maintained his number one position thanks to continued numbers of retweets, far outpacing any other world leader.
The Pope’s first Instagram photo was captioned, appropriately: “Pray for me.”
A photo posted by Pope Francis (@franciscus) on
The Pope’s decision to open an Instagram account arises from his conviction that pictures can reveal many things that words can’t, according to Monsignor Dario Viganò, the head of the Vatican’s Communications department.
The aim of this papal Instagram account, he said, is “to tell the story of the Pontificate of Pope Francis through images.”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome