Pope Francis has once again elevated his status as Hippest Pontiff Ever by joining Instagram.
Within hours of launching his account Saturday, @Franciscus had already accumulated 405,000 Instagram followers. Based on his massive Twitter following (25 million users in 9 different languages, according to the Vatican) that number is sure to grow as the Pope—or, more likely, the Vatican’s social media directors—continue to post photos and videos on the image-centric network. Francis' first post is of the Pope himself kneeling in prayer with the caption "Pray for me" written in nine different languages.
“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,” Dario E. Viganò, prefect of the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications, said in a press release Friday. “We will choose photographs from the Photographic Service of L’Osservatore Romano, selecting certain details. In this way we can show those aspects of closeness and inclusion that Pope Francis lives every day.”
The Pope’s social media presence is as remarkable for the leader of the historically traditional Roman Catholic Church as it is for any 79-year-old. And social media seems to love him right back. In honor of his visit to the United States this fall, Twitter released a batch of limited edition of Pope emojis, while Snapchat offered users in the cities Francis visited the opportunity to stamp their snaps with Pontiff-themed filters
In fact, Francis reportedly decided to expand his social media horizons after meeting with Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom at the Vatican last month. Naturally, Systrom documented the meeting via Instagram, writing in the caption of his post, “Today I had the honor of meeting Pope Francis. We spoke about the power of images to unite people across different cultures and languages. It was by far one of the most memorable experiences of my life!”