In an effort to reach out to young believers and non-believers, Pope Francis has joined Instagram with an official account. Within hours of his first post, Francis gained thousands of followers.
The social media-savvy pontiff is already a hit on Twitter, with more than 25 million followers in nine different languages. Pope Francis also announced his latest social media move via his @Pontifex Twitter account, calling it "a new journey."
The first image posted (see image above) features Pope Francis kneeling in prayer accompanied by his trademark caption which reads "Pray for me" in nine different languages. One hour after his first picture was posted, the pope's account had over 200,000 followers.
The 79-year-old pope is using Instagram under the name @Franciscus, which is Latin for Francis.
"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," the Vatican said in a statement on Friday.
Francis' move to join the image-based app had been expected, as Instagram is now larger and growing faster than Twitter, with over 400 million users worldwide.
Prior to launching his account, the pontiff met with Instagram CEO and co-founder Kevin Systrom last month and discussed "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!" Systrom said in a post on his own Instagram account.
The pope's interest and involvement in the Internet was made evident in January when he spoke out against online bullies and Internet trolls.
"Emails, text messages, social networks and chats can also be fully human forms of communication," Francis said in January during Catholic World Communications Day, adding that "the Internet can help us to be better citizens."
rs/jm (AFP, dpa, KNA)