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Pope Francis Instagram Account Celebrates One Year

One year has passed since Pope Francis joined Instagram. With over 3.6 million followers as of March 2017, the secretary of the Secretariat for Communications, Msgr. Lucio Adrian Ruiz, recounted the roots of the pontiff's vision for evangelization in the "digital continent."

According to Radio Vaticana, Msgr. Ruiz recalled how Kevin Systrom, the co-founder and CEO of Instagram, pitched the notion to Pope Francis. He presented the social media platform as a means to "communicate a message through the [use of] an image."

Msgr. Ruiz said that Pope Francis welcomed the idea and discussed the "theology of image, as the Church has always experienced pictures as a way to be close to the people and even do catechesis."

According to the monsignor, the pontiff perceives images as "the access point to a dialogue."

"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," Msgr. Ruiz explained when he was asked about what lessons Catholic communicators can pick up from the pontiff's contemporary communication style.

The monsignor said that missionaries should approach the "digital continent" as they would with any other continent or reality.

In 2016, Pope Francis and the Vatican agreed that Instagram — due to its visual-centered platform and its prominence as a social media channel — was an ideal setting to evangelize.

"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," Msgr. Dario E. Viganò, prefect of the Vatican's Secretariat for Communications, said in a statement,

The pontiff's Instagram account published its first post on March 19, 2016 — a photograph of Pope Francis with a simple caption of "Pray for me" in nine languages. The account's name, @Franciscus, is Latin for "Francis."

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