When Pope Francis made his first international trip as Pope to Brazil, millions of his Twitter followers went with him. On July 22, he traveled to the World Youth Festival, which was also the Argentine Pope’s first return to Latin America since his appointment in March.
The first such event on that continent since it began in 1984, World Youth Day (WYD) drew more than three million of the Pope’s followers. Aware of many who couldn’t make it, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis would extend plenary indulgences to penitent individuals via Twitter.
As Monsignor Claudio Maria Celli, the president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communication, told Sacred Apostolic Penitentiary, “You don’t obtain an indulgence like you get a coffee from a vending machine. It’s not enough just to watch a Mass online or follow Pope Francis via live-streaming on your iPad or by connecting to Pope2You.net. These are just devices. What really counts is that the Tweet that the Pope will send from Brazil or the photos from World Youth Day produce genuine spiritual fruit in the heart of the person.”
To reach followers worldwide, the Pope tweeted frequently from all nine of his language-specific Twitter accounts.
The Pope’s visit trended globally through several different hashtags, including #PapaFrancisco, #JMJ and #Rio2013. JMJ facilitated the transport and lodging for young people during the festival and actively promoted the Pope’s trip. The organization also used Twitter to send updates on the Pope’s whereabouts.
This Vine from JMJ captured the Pope’s “Popemobile” tour as he greeted his followers — a WYD tradition:
Given that roads and public transport were closed in the area, the faithful walked more than 12 kilometers while singing and flag-waving, to Copacabana Beach. Once there, more than two million people attended the Mass, and JMJ caught the moment using Vine, bringing people everywhere closer to the events.
The Pope’s followers on Twitter were paying attention: his Brazilian trip was mentioned in more than 1.3 million Tweets and received more than 36 million Retweets.
The Pope also gained tens of thousands of followers on Twitter during the World Youth Day events.
Back at the Vatican, the Pope thanked everyone for his unforgettable week in Rio, and asked for prayers:
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