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Pope Francis joins Instagram and gains 1.5m followers

Pope Francis shakes hands with Kevin Systrom, CEO and co-founder of Instagram (L' Osservatore Romano/pool photo via AP)

After joining Instagram on Saturday Pope Francis has already amassed 1.5 million followers.

The first post at the account, named Franciscus, on the photo-sharing social media platform was a picture of the Pontiff praying, accompanied by the phrase ‘pray for me’. Other posts, including more pictures of the Pope at prayer and a video in which the Pontiff delivers a message of mercy, have since appeared.

The account will be managed by the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications.

The Pope's first Instagram post
The Pope’s first Instagram post

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook (which bought Instagram in 2012), posted a “welcome to Instagram” message to the Pope on his personal Facebook page.

“Welcome to Instagram, Pope Francis! No matter what faith you practice, we can all be inspired by Pope Francis’s humility and compassion,” Zuckerberg wrote.

“I’m looking forward to following the Pope — and watching him continue sharing his message of mercy, equality and justice with the world.”

The Pope is already a significant presence on Twitter, with more than 27 million people following his multi-lingual @Pontifex accounts. Other Twitter users with more than 20 million followers include US president Barack Obama and pop star Justin Bieber.

On Twitter, Pope Francis said that by joining Instagram he was “beginning a new journey… to walk with you along the path of mercy and the tenderness of God.”

Dario Viganò, the Vatican’s prefect of the secretariat for communications, said that the Pope’s Instagram postings “will help recount the papacy through images, to enable all those who wish to accompany and know more about Pope Francis’s pontificate to encounter his gestures of tenderness and mercy.”

He added: “We will choose photographs from the photographic service of L’Osservatore Romano … In this way we can show those aspects of closeness and inclusion that Pope Francis lives every day.”

Pope Francis met Kevin Systrom, Instagram’s chief executive and co-founder, at the Vatican last month.

In 2014, in a message for World Communications Day message, the Pope described the internet as “a gift from God”.