Pope Francis carefully chose this moment to capitalize on his Internet popularity with an even more radical statement: that uninhibited capitalism represents “a new tyranny,” and that global leaders are not doing enough to battle the growing income disparity.
Pope Francis’ Twitter account, @Pontifex, is the most talked-about thing on the Internet, and Francis remains unafraid to discuss controversial issues in the spotlight. Reuters reports that Pope Francis’ latest apostolic exhortation, an 84-page document, directly attacks “the idolatry of money” and importunes the leaders of the world to make “dignified work, education, and healthcare” available to all citizens.
His Twitter quote and reactions were popular, if not downright viral:
Only installed in March, Pope Francis has already become a sensation. His is the most talked-about name on the Internet in 2013, ranking ahead of “Obamacare” and “NSA”. In fourth place comes Francis’s Twitter handle, @Pontifex. In Italy, Francesco has fast become the most popular name for new baby boys. Rome reports a surge in tourist numbers, while church attendance is said to be up – both trends attributed to “the Francis effect.”
According to The Guardian, his popularity is not hard to fathom. The stories of his personal modesty have become the stuff of instant legend. He carries his own suitcase. He refused the grandeur of the papal palace, preferring to live in a simple hostel. When presented with the traditional red shoes of the pontiff, he declined; instead he telephoned his 81-year-old cobbler in Buenos Aires and asked him to repair his old ones. On Thursday, Francis visited the Italian president – arriving in a blue Ford Focus, with not a blaring siren to be heard.
With only 206 tweets to date, Pope Francis is the newest social media star and advocate for love, hope, faith and more recently, peace in Syria. Pope Francis is the first Pope on social media and has created quite a stir.
According to Forbes, Pope Francis, or @Pontifex to his Twitter followers, has quickly become a social media phenomenon, adding five million followers since his installation. He is gaining more than 4,000 followers a day and knocking at the door of three million followers for his English language feed alone. He’s got more than eight million total on Twitter, tweeting in Latin, German, Polish, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian and Arabic.
This change may seem small for the 1.2 billion Roman Catholics worldwide. What matters in social media isn’t just the raw numbers, instead, creating influence and engagement, including among non-Catholics, and the new Pope has them both.
Pope Francis has been doing this his own way, especially on social media. Since his installment, we’ve seen the first Papal “selfie” go viral, his Twitter account has risen by over five million followers and his tweets are retweeted some 22,000 times on average.
The 22,000 retweets (across all the languages) for every short message the Pope sends out tends to get the social marketers and cause campaigners attention. That’s the kind of engagement with a wide audience of influencers that can help change opinion. Of course, the Pope’s widely reported remarks on gay people and atheists – and even the possibility of priests marrying – have shaken up the public perception of the modern Papacy, no small feat for a 78-year-old Jesuit. Unquestionably, Francis is a rising star on social media – especially among the politically active, social cause crowd.