by Juan A. Di Prado, UFSocial Contributor
Catholicism is one of the world’s oldest religions with nearly 1.2 billion people, or 20% of the world’s population identifying as Catholic. According to the Pew Research Center, the number of Catholics worldwide is triple what it was just a century ago. But being an institution that is over 2,000 years old, the Catholic Church has had to adapt to meet the demands of a changing world, and this includes technology.
For those who spend their days surfing the net and social media sites, going online has become the go-to means to get information about any and everything. But of course, this wasn’t the case when Catholicism began, which is why the Church has had to transition into joining the “technology revolution”, and boy has it done so!
To see how the Catholic Church has joined the online and social media world, one has to look no further than the last two Popes. The now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, was the first Pope to ever have a public Twitter account.
Let us sing as we go. May our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope.
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) June 19, 2015
@Pontifex was created as a way for the Holy Father to reach Catholics around the world and spread his message in a more “personal” way. @Pontifex has 9 accounts in different languages including Latin, Italian, Spanish, French, Arabic, German and Portuguese, and though Pope Benedict XVI tweeted sporadically, he passed down his account to his successor, Pope Francis, who tweets almost daily and currently has around 22 million followers (when all 9 accounts combined). But the Catholic Church does not limit its use of technology to just the Pope having a Twitter account. The Vatican has its official website Vatican.va, and through its news agency News.va, it is also on several social media sites including Facebook, Google+, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram.
Listening Up Hay que escuchar #PopeFrancis #PapaFrancisco #popeindc #walkwithfrancis #PapaFrancesco @washarchdiocese @archphilly #popeinusa A photo posted by News.va (@newsva) on
All of these social media sites are put to strategic use for the Church to reach out to followers and non-followers. In May of 2015, Pope Francis released Laudato Si’, his encyclical on the environment, and kicked off the campaign to promote the encyclical with a well crafted video uploaded to the Vatican’s YouTube account in three languages: English, Spanish and Italian.
The YouTube account also allows the public to watch the latest general audiences of the Pope, special reports by News.va and countless videos on the Pope’s travels within and outside of Italy, and its Facebook and Twitter page have the latest news from the Vatican.
The Vatican Instagram account, with nearly 26K followers, shows the works of mercy and charity of the Catholic Church, and of Pope Francis interacting with people around the world. Not to be lost among all of the Vatican’s social media accounts, is the recognition by the Catholic Church that the people are active on social media to share their interactions including those with the Pope as seen in this Vatican Instagram photo of a visitor taking a Snapchat of Pope Francis.
The Vatican also has a number of official apps including the Vatican.va App, which provides information from the Holy See and the Vatican’s official website, the Vatican.Va-RA App also gives 360-degree tours of Piazza San Pietro and other Vatican sites using augmented reality. The Pope App allows users to get the latest information on the Pope as well as a gallery of images, his speeches, homilies, and videos of his appearances. The Widget Vatican.va allows websites to embed on their site a section with all the Vatican news and important information. With Pope Francis’ September, 2015 visit to the United States, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, has released an app called Catholic Church, which will give the latest details of all the events of the Holy Father during his apostolic visit.
Catholics across the United States have prepared for the Pope’s visit. For example, the Archdioceses of Miami is in Washington D.C., New York City and Philadelphia to help in a social media team of Catholic communicators covering Pope Francis’ visit to the United States. This team will be using platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but also Periscope and You Tube to video stream events as they take place.
Remember to watch what’s happening with Pope Francis, live on the archdiocesan website from your computer or tablet. http://t.co/kOEEcH8AyW
— Archdiocese of Miami (@CatholicMiami) September 22, 2015
But things don’t stop after the Pope’s visit to the United States. Most Catholic dioceses and archdioceses are connected to numerous social media platforms. Most of them are at least on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, and follow the lead of the Vatican in reaching out to the people via social media and through email. It is now common practice for archdiocesan websites to live stream important Masses, and most cardinals, archbishops and bishops are on at least one social media channel. Diocesan priests are also active on social media. Archbishop Thomas Wenski of the Archdioceses of Miami is on Facebook and several priests release daily messages and prayers through Whatsapp, or broadcast parish events via Periscope. The possibilities to reach out to the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics are endless and the Catholic Church is not only recognizing this but it is also implementing it and embracing it. Welcome to the era of Catholicism 2.0.
About the Author
Juan A. Di Prado is a social media marketer, advertiser and public relations professional from Miami, Florida. Di Prado holds a bachelor’s degree in mass communication, and two master’s degrees, one in global strategic communication, advertising and public relations, and the other in social media.