Updated — The @Pontifex franchise: over 10 million served!

UPDATE:  Well, that didn’t take long!

At 9:32 p.m. Saturday Oct. 26, a little more than 24 hours after our original blog post, the @Pontifex accounts reached 10 million followers.

Il Sismografo plots out the papal path to Twitter fame quite nicely:

  • @Pontifex accumulated 3.3 million followers in its first two and a half months (from Dec. 12, 2012 to Feb. 28, 2013, when Pope Benedict resigned) .
  • 6.7 million more people hopped on board between March 17 and Oct. 26.

Pope Francis sent a celebratory tweet to mark the occasion.

 

VATICAN CITY — Watch out @KanyeWest and Christina Aguilera @xtina. @Pontifex is hot on your heels.

pontifex

Screengrab of Pope Francis’ Twitter account @Pontifex.

Pope Francis’ Twitter accounts in nine different languages are ready to reach 10 million followers, putting the leader of the universal church dangerously close to some of the music industry’s biggest artists and Hollywood’s hottest stars.

With 9.9 million followers this week, the pope has pulled ahead of @MTV (Music Television) and @nytimes (The New York Times).

The push in popularity is largely being fueled by the surge in Spanish-language followers of @Pontifex_es, which recently went over 4 million people, beating the English account by nearly one million.

Archbishop Claudio Celli, the president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications (which runs The Pope App and the news.va aggregator), said the pope’s total tweet-reach, however, goes way beyond just his followers. When people re-tweet the pope’s mini messages, they’re then sent on to more than 60 million people, he told Vatican Radio today.

As we reported this summer, Pope Francis is, in fact, the most influential world leader on Twitter, with the highest number of retweets worldwide. He’s also the second most-followed leader of the world, running behind — albeit by a long stretch — U.S. President Barack Obama.

The Vatican’s media adviser, @GregBurkeRome, said last week that the pope’s Twitter presence has been especially important for Catholic immigrants who work in countries with strict restrictions on religious liberty and have difficulty accessing news or written materials about the church.

Decoding Francis: Vatican media adviser offers “10 things to know”

VATICAN CITY — If people are still unsure about what to make of Pope Francis, the Vatican’s media adviser offered his take on decoding the pontiff.

GREG BURKE, MEDIA ADVISER TO VATICAN, PARTICIPATES IN PRESS CONFERENCE ABOUT POPE'S PRESENCE ON TWITTER

Greg Burke, media adviser to the Vatican, participating in a Vatican press conference Dec. 3, 2012. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“Pope Francis is not a politically-correct pope,” rather, he is “a loyal son of the church” who presents the hard truths with a heavy dose of mercy, said Greg Burke, senior communications adviser to the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.

The former U.S. journalist, who’s been based in Rome the past 25 years, gave a behind-the-scenes talk last week to hundreds of benefactors celebrating the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums.

U.S. Msgr. Peter Wells — another top official at the Secretariat of State — also spoke at the same Oct. 18 event in the apostolic palace, where he gave his take on the reform of the curia and how they counteract secular media manipulating the pope’s message.

In trying to describe his papally-appointed role as the Vatican’s chief media strategist, Burke (an unabashed soccer fan) said, “We kick the ball to Francis and Francis scores the goals.” “We let the pope do his thing.”

He said Pope Francis clearly knows how to communicate and his effectiveness comes from his authenticity. “It’s not charm. It’s Christian charity, which is a whole lot more attractive than charm.”

He also said “Pope Francis is not a politically-correct pope, in my opinion.”

Pope greets people in wheelchairs after celebrating Mass in St. Peter's Square at Vatican

Pope Francis greeting people in wheelchairs after celebrating Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican June 16. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

There’s been a lot of spin in the press about what the pope has been saying, but “I believe the pope wants to get beyond left and right” by getting people to focus on the Gospels, on God and his truth and mercy.

“He’s a loyal son of the church” who sees its task as being like “a field hospital” that runs to and helps people who are hurting, he said.

The pope is not advocating a “feel-good” religion of “I’m OK-you’re OK-Catholicism,” but talks about the truth of the Gospel that includes mercy and forgiveness.

“The Gospel is not there to make us feel good. The Gospel is there and makes very practical demands on us,” and one of those demands is to “tell people the truth and walk with them to the Lord,” Burke said.

Burke said, “the pope’s picture should have one of those warning labels” on it, much like a pack of cigarettes does, but with the words: “Danger: This man could change your life.”

Here’s Burke’s Top Ten List to describe and better understand the Argentine pontiff:

Pope greets man as he meets with patients, others at hospital in Rio

Pope Francis greeting a man at Rio de Janeiro’s St. Francis of Assisi Hospital — a clinic for recovering drug addicts. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) (July 24, 2013)

1. Mercy — The story of the Prodigal Son is a recurring theme and the pope repeatedly says that God never tires of forgiving and welcoming his lost children back home.  “The church is waiting here for you with open arms,” is the message, Burke said.

2. Moxie/courage — “We’re all going to get challenged by Pope Francis. Get ready!” People who live comfortably or live in developed nations will be especially challenged, Burke said, adding, “This is good. This is the Gospel.”

3. Margins, missions — Francis is continuing with his predecessors’ criticism of a world divided by haves and have-nots. The pope “is not a fan of cheap grace and feel-good religion. He wants to see Christians who are not afraid to get their hands dirty,” Burke said.

Woman prays as pope leads vigil to pray for peace in Syria

A woman in prayer as Pope Francis led a vigil to pray for peace in Syria in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Sept. 7. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

4. Prayer — Non-believers often don’t notice how important prayer is for religious life. For example, Blessed Mother Teresa was often looked upon by the secular press as “a social worker wearing a habit.” But, Burke said, the pope has constantly been stressing the importance of prayer and urging people to pray.

5. Encounter — The pope is asking people to embrace a “culture of encounter” where they experience God and meet with others, including non-believers. This attitude of encounter and communion also starts at home, with your family, Burke said.

Pope Francis gives thumbs as he leaves St. Peter's Square after celebrating Palm Sunday Mass

Pope Francis giving a thumbs up after celebrating Palm Sunday Mass at the Vatican March 24. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

6. Joy — The pope “gets a thumbs’ up on that,” he said, as he’s able to show his joy so plainly. He said that according to Pope Francis, the biggest dangers and temptations in life are “discouragement, discord, the doldrums and the devil.”

7. Service — By paying his hotel bill in person (even though he had just been elected pope), phoning people who write to him and other do-it-yourself tasks, the pope is leading by example with the message that “it’s not about power or privilege; if we’re here, we’re here to serve.”

Pope Francis steps off a plane in Rome, returning from his trip to Brazil

Pope Francis stepping off a plane after returning to Rome July 29 from his trip to Brazil. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

8. Simplicity/Humility — Living in a Vatican guest house instead of the apostolic palace, carrying his own briefcase on a trip… that’s just how the pope is and people will have to “get used to it because we’ll see more of it,” Burke said.

9. Compassion — Burke, who’s a numerary member of Opus Dei and went to Jesuit-run St. Louis University high school in St. Louis, said he used to joke with people “that everyone should have a Jesuit education. Now with Pope Francis, everyone is getting the benefits of a Jesuit education.”

“Compassion and suffering with others is something Pope Francis has a knack for” and it’s especially evident when he embraces people and is totally present one-on-one with an individual, even in large crowds.

10. Energy — Burke said for a 76-year-old, the pope “has a lot of energy and we’re going to be in for an interesting ride!”

Pope Francis is ratings king for Italian TV

Pope greets crowd after celebrating Mass for catechists in St. Peter's Square at Vatican

A cameraman captures the moment as Pope Francis greets the crowd in St. Peter’s Square after celebrating a Mass for catechists at the Vatican Sept. 29. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY — Italian television has seen its viewership ratings of papal events skyrocket since Pope Francis’ election.

The number of people tuning in to watch the pope celebrate major liturgical events and his Sunday Angelus has “soared,” according to the Italian daily, “Il Fatto Quotidiano.”

The Italian state television channel, RAI 1, reported a jump of almost three-quarters of a million people watching its coverage of the noon Angelus.

Viewership of the weekly pre-“pranzo” prayer went from 1.56 million people in 2012 to 2.27 million people this year, “Il Fatto” reported. Not bad for a country of 60.9 million people with just 30.3 million televisions sets.

Audience share of RAI 1’s papal Mass broadcasts saw an even bigger boost going from 15.82 percent during Benedict XVI’s pontificate to 22.35 percent today. That translates, the paper said, into nearly one in three households tuning in to Pope Francis to watch him celebrate Mass.

Pope Francis waves as he leads his first Angelus in St. Peter's Square at Vatican

Pope Francis waves to the crowd from the window of the apostolic palace as he leads his first Angelus in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican March 17, 2013. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

Pope Francis’ first Angelus address in March grabbed a 45 percent audience share and the Via Crucis a few weeks later nabbed 36 percent — numbers that are usually the norm during live coverage of Italians’ other “religion:” national soccer playoffs.  In a play on words, the Italian paper said when it comes to audience draw, “a Mass (Messa) is worth Messi,” the champion Argentine soccer star.

TV 2000, the television station of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, had its day of fame when it broadcast live Pope Francis’ visit to Assisi earlier this month, making the tiny station the 5th-most watched channel that day, ahead of some major commercial channels.

The Italian all-news channel, SkyTG24 is giving more airtime than ever before to the pope’s Sunday Angelus, the paper said, because “when Francis is on air, people don’t change the channel.”

Pope Francis gives first ‘red carpet’ interview

VATICAN CITY — So far, Pope Francis has done impromptu interviews with journalists on a plane, in written correspondence and at his Vatican residence.

Now he’s done his first “red carpet” interview — responding to a TV reporter who squeezed through the throng and shouted a question over the cheering crowds.

floral carpet assisi san rufino

Screen-grab from Vatican television (CTV) coverage of Pope Francis’ visit to the Cathedral of San Rufino in Assisi.

It happened in Assisi when the pope was greeting people gathered outside the Cathedral of San Rufino. However, instead of an actual red carpet, he walked along a colorful carpet made of flowers.

The clip, which aired last night on a political talk show, goes like this:

The Italian TV reporter asks:

“Your Holiness, is there hope for Italy?”

The pope approaches the reporter and replies:

“There is always hope because the Lord gives us hope, the Lord gives us the strength to go on.”

Riding his wave of good luck, the reporter continues:

“What do we have to do in order to have hope?”

The pope says:

“Well, look for it, and the Lord will inspire you!” [gives a thumbs up]

To see the clip, find it here.

 

 

iPray! Smart phone applications for the tech-savvy Catholic

By Caroline Hroncich

VATICAN CITY — Looking for apps to help enhance your faith? What apps are out there for the tech-savvy Catholic?

If you simply type “Prayer” into the Apple Application store, you will immediately be bombarded by around 2,000 results. So to save you spending hours searching through pages of applications, I have compiled a list of some of the most reliable faith applications.

The Pope App The Pope App

Sponsored by the Vatican, The Pope App is essentially an all-access pass to Pope Francis. Users can choose to live stream papal events via The Pope App and they also have access to a calendar containing the dates of future events. One of the The Pope App’s unique features is the webcam option which allows users to stream live feeds from places like St. Peter’s Square and St Peter’s Basilica. This application is available for iPhone and Android.

Missio Missio

The Missio application, officially launched by Pope Francis himself, is a great way to stay up-to-date on Vatican news and evangelization. It is available for iPhone and Android and allows users to access global Catholic news. Missio also includes the latest Catholic News Service videos!

iBreviary iBreviary

iBreviary is an application that gives users access to a the Breviary prayer book. It offers daily readings, prayers of the daily Mass and other prayers in English, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, French, Latin and Romanian. iBreviary is available for iPhone and Android.

iMissal iMissal

iMissal is available for iPhone, Android, Windows’ Phone, Blackberry and Kindle. This application allows users to receive complete missals, prayers, and biblical verses directly to their phone. There is also a Saint-a-Day add-on available for purchase on iMissal which allows users to learn about the lives of different saints.

Confession: A Roman Catholic App Confession

The Confession Application is available for iPhone, and Android, and is designed to help users prepare for the Sacrament of Confession. It is easy to personalize and provides a step-by-step guide for users. The Confession Application also has a section for personal reflection and is available in English, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian.

My Year of Faith Application My year of faith

The My Year of Faith App is available for iPhone and Android and was created in direct response to the Vatican’s Year of Faith initiative. This application provides users with suggested readings, daily challenges and an interactive calendar. My Year of Faith also connects users to other forms of social media by allowing them to tweet or Facebook post directly from the application.

Editor’s note: Caroline Hroncich is a student at Villanova University and is interning at Catholic News Service’s Rome bureau for the semester.

Catholic News Service saves the day!

internet connection

VATICAN CITY — Technical glitches can be a real pain on an ordinary work day and an absolute disaster when news is breaking.

So you can imagine the ripples of unease that were going through the Vatican press office this morning as some people noticed they were having Internet connection problems.

Pope Francis was due to announce the date of the canonizations of Blesseds John Paul II and John XXIII during a 10 a.m. gathering of cardinals and promoters of the candidates’ causes for sainthood.

Strangely, the CNS workstation had excellent Internet service, so our senior correspondent, Cindy Wooden, generously invited people to log onto our wireless connection if needed. Journalists are resourceful, and the patchy Internet didn’t seem to cause them any huge problems (the backup being: “call in the story.”) Continue reading

Another reason you may need to learn Italian?

UPDATED: You can hold off on signing up for Italian courses. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has saved the day.

Their online version has much better search functionality and people can order an ebook version, too.

Continue reading

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