Pope Francis grabbed massive social media attention on March 19 when the head of the Catholic Church started a new Instagram account, gaining more than 1 million followers within hours.
The pope's first Instagram post, a photo of Francis in prayer with the caption "pray for me," generated 275,000 likes in less than two days, eliciting thousands of comments from users around the world. The Vatican has said that the account will feature photos and videos from the pope's daily life that emphasize "closeness" and "inclusion," according to World Religion News.
Francis, who has more than 22 million followers on Twitter across several multilingual accounts, is no stranger to using social media to connect with younger generations. A study by Twiplomacy named the pope the most influential world leader on Twitter, citing the reaction and reach that his tweets about various world issues receive, according to Capital News.
"Although Pope Francis is the second most followed world leader, he averages 9,929 retweets for every tweet he sends on his Spanish account," said PR Firm Burston-Marstellar, in a statement regarding the Twiplomacy study.
"That’s more than 8 times the retweets U.S. President Obama (the most followed world leader on Twitter) averages," the firm added.
According to People magazine, the pope's January 2015 tweet addressing the Philippines was the third most retweeted tweet by a world leader in the social networking service's history, Capital News reports.
"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 Dario Vigano, prefect of the Vatican's Secretariat for Communications, in a press release regarding the new Instagram account.
In February, the pope met with the CEO of Instagram, Kevin Systrom, at the Vatican. In a post calling the pope's new account an "incredible moment" and welcoming the religious leader to the image and video sharing service, Systrom said the pope's "messages of humility, compassion, and mercy will leave a lasting mark."