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Twitter, selfies—Pope Francis rocks the Internet

Social media has made its way into many industries, but it's also made its way into faith through the strong support of one man: Pope Francis.

One look at the pope's Twitter account (@Pontifex) and you can see he has embraced online technology. And, with more than 7 million Twitter followers, the leader of the Catholic church is garnering a fan base as quickly as any rock group.

Cartrice Haynesworth, center, has a selfie taken with Pope Francis as he walks through the crowd during a visit to Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015.
David Goldman | AP
Cartrice Haynesworth, center, has a selfie taken with Pope Francis as he walks through the crowd during a visit to Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015.

When the Pope published Laudato Si'—a 180-page document on climate change—he also tweeted a series of 63 bite-sized highlights to all his Twitter followers. Now, millennials may not read a 180-page exhortation, but it's hard to ignore a 17-word tweet like the one below:


While the Pope isn't on Facebook (only community pages exist), his powerful statements over his Twitter feed continue to spur a movement that allows us to turn the proverbial mirror on ourselves and see the reality unfolding before us. More than just moral platitudes, the pope's tweets serve as a wake-up call to the people of the world:

The social media habits of the Pope bode well with millennials and have proven to be a natural outlet for the Pontifex Maximus. It's no surprise that the intersection of social media and faith have had a pretty resounding impact that continues to prompt social change and critical thinking all for the greater good of humanity.

What has been dubbed the "Francis Effect" among millennials is the Pope's ability to unify and reignite how the church and spirituality becomes part of everyday life.


The "hip" status of Pope Francis is further cemented through the movements and values he is instilling in Gen Y and Gen Z, both generations which have witnessed the effects of growing up with a "plugged in" mentality.

During the 2014 World Cup, it was the norm for millions of people from around the world to follow matches via social media. Pope Francis, not wanting to miss a teachable moment and reach a large pool of the world's youth, tweeted the following encouragement:

This tweet was shared nearly 20,000 times—reaching a massive audience of millennials and football fans. Pope Francis infuses pop culture into his mix of tweets and never fails to address what is popular among the millennial demographic.

This week, Pope Francis made his U.S. debut. Flipping through Facebook turns up a perfect "selfie" with the Pope, which has likely already been seen by millions due to the popular "share" button.

With the growing surge of Twitter use among millennials, it seems obvious that the church must engage them where they "hang out." Pope Francis understands this and has been leading the charge on every front: be it climate change, poverty, or protection of the environment.

By challenging millennials to set goals for the betterment of the world, he has encouraged young people to take a stand by integrating faith and service.

Pope Francis tries to meet millennials where they are and take them on a faith journey to where they need to be, and social media is part of that journey, serving as a conduit that can elevate the conversation and drive them to a higher calling of inspiration and passion.

As many millennials will be tuned in this week to get their social media fix, one thing is clear: @Pontifex will be there with another daily dose of inspiration.

Commentary by Deacon Kevin Bagley, Director of Verbum, the Catholic branch of Faithlife Corporation. Faithlife publishes and creates electronic tools and resources for Bible study.