It was one year ago that Pope Francis launched his Instagram account ‘@Franciscus’. In his first post on Instagram Pope Francis said: “I am beginning a new journey, on Instagram, to walk with you along the path of the mercy and tenderness of God.”
Msgr. Lucio Adrian Ruiz is Secretary of the Secretariat for Communications and he recalled the origins of the Holy Father’s vision for evangelizing the “digital continent”.
“The Holy Father responded,” Msgr. Ruiz explained, “talking about the theology of the image, as the Church has always experienced pictures as a way to be close to the people and even to do catechesis.
Msgr. Ruiz said Pope Francis sees images as “The access point to a dialogue.”
Asked what lessons communicators – especially Catholic communicators – can learn from the communications style of Pope Francis, Msgr. Ruiz said, “We are in the digital culture: in the words of Pope Benedict, there is a ‘digital continent’, a reality into which we must enter and live, because, if man is there, the Church cannot fail to be there, too – and must be there in the same dynamic with which the missionaries approached things when they discovered another continent, another reality.”
It was Pope Francis himself who inaugurated his account, called “Franciscus,” from his residence at the Casa Santa Marta. He also posted his first image, a picture of himself in prayer. To create his startup profile, the Holy Father was assisted by Kevin Systrom, the CEO and co-founder of Instagram.
Founded in 2010, Instagram has over 500 million users worldwide and shares photos and videos with a community of followers. The launch of the Pope’s Instagram account increased his substantial presence on social media platforms. His Twitter account, with the hashtag “@Pontifex,” has more than 32 million followers.
Speaking at the launch of Pope Francis’ Instagram account last year, the Prefect of the Secretariat for Communications, Monsignor Dario Viganò said the decision to open an Instagram account arises from the Pope’s conviction that pictures can reveal many things that words can’t. He said the aim of the papal Instagram account is to tell the story of the Pontificate of Pope Francis through images.
During his first hour of going live on Instagram, Pope Francis had 100,000 followers. A few hours later that number had increased to almost 700,000. His account today has 3.6 million followers.
You can follow Pope Francis on Instagram at ‘Franciscus’.