Pope Francis is a verified social media saint.
First off, his Twitter handle, @Pontifex, is the most retweeted account in the world (yes, that includes @KimKardashian). In fact, the pope’s tweets are so sacred that he has an entire social media team dedicated to maintaining his page. Now his social strategists have launched a papal news aggregation site, News.va. Oh, and of course they’re updating the pope’s app to bring the words of the Holy Father straight to Catholics’ smartphones. Basically, Francis, with some help, is winning the Internet right now.
As for that help, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications (PCSC) runs all the Vatican’s media services, radio programming, newspapers, missionary services, press operations and television endeavors. More importantly, this council currently oversees the pope’s web presence. And while the papal tweet-shop is responsible for packaging the pope’s pre-existing texts into 140 characters, Pope Francis approves each tweet before it goes up.
Vocativ went to the Vatican to speak with the archbishops and media connoisseurs behind @Pontifex. “Today Pope Francis [is] inviting Catholics not to be afraid of social networks,” says Archbishop Claudio Celli, president of the PCSC. “Sixty million people around the world are receiving on smartphone the tweet of the pope. And we think this is great. Beautiful.”
The pope may not have the most followers on Twitter, but his team posts shareable content and it goes a long way. “There are obviously a lot of entertainers, a few politicians, that are bigger than he is,” explains Greg Burke, one of the PCSC’s social strategists. “But the fact of the matter is that Pope Francis gets a massive amount of retweets on every single tweet that he sends out. And that to us is a sign that the people who follow the pope really care about the pope.”
To keep up momentum, the PCSC is launching new platforms to deliver the pope’s messages to his followers’ feeds. “We are opening News.va, an aggregator of news, and it is updated three to four times a day,” Celli says.
Thaddeus Jones, the creator of News.va, is also releasing a new version of the Pope App. “We have a version coming out, Pope App 2.0, we are quite excited about it,” he tells us. “We had over 400,000 downloads [on the first version], and we are optimistic that those numbers will go up quite a bit. We’ve really done a big job in improving the graphics and making it even easier to use.”
As for the pope’s actual feelings on all of this, well…he recently told the press that technology can be a distraction from what is really important. Then again, he also said the Internet is a “gift from God.” For the Catholic faithful, it’s one that keeps on giving.
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