VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis is the king of Twitter and other social media outlets but he’s still not on Facebook, the most dominant digital platform in the world.
Will that change following his meeting with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg on Monday (Aug. 29)?
The Vatican wasn’t saying, and neither was Zuckerberg, and the focus of their private meeting — which was also attended by Zuckerberg’s wife, Priscilla Chan — was about helping the poor more than building profiles.
“It was a meeting we’ll never forget,” the Facebook CEO wrote on, yes, Facebook, shortly after the audience in the Vatican. “You can feel his warmth and kindness, and how deeply he cares about helping people.”
The Vatican released a brief statement saying that Zuckerberg, Chan and the pope “spoke about how to use communications technology to alleviate poverty, encourage a culture of encounter, and to communicate a message of hope, especially to the most disadvantaged.”
The 32-year-old Zuckerberg and Chan were in Italy to attend the wedding of a friend, Spotify co-founder Daniel Ek, which took place Sunday at Lake Como in northern Italy.
Zuckerberg also told university students in Rome on Monday that Facebook will give 500,000 euros, or about $560,000, to the Italian Red Cross to help relief efforts in the earthquake-stricken region north of Rome.
After meeting with the pope, Zuckerberg posted a photo of himself showing Francis a model of a solar-powered aircraft, named Aquila, “that will beam internet connectivity to places that don’t have it.” (“Aquila” is the Italian word for eagle.)
The internet-aircraft plan stems from the work of the couple’s charitable foundation, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.
Zuckerberg said they also told the pontiff “how much we admire his message of mercy and tenderness, and how he’s found new ways to communicate with people of every faith around the world.”
Francis has not only captured the imagination of Catholics and the wider public since he was elected pope in 2013, but he has become one of the most influential leaders on Twitter — with over 30 million followers across his nine accounts — and on other social media platforms.
But the pontiff is not on Facebook because, as his former communications chief explained in 2014, abusive comments on Facebook would be “more prominent”than those on Twitter.
Francis, who has called the internet “something truly good, a gift from God,” has met several times with top tech leaders, such as Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., and Tim Cook, CEO of Apple.
And the pope did join Instagram — which is owned by Facebook — in March, less than a month after he met the company’s CEO, Kevin Systrom.
(Josephine McKenna covers the Vatican for Religion News Service. David Gibson is a national correspondent based in New York)
- Trump’s move to protect LGBT workers unsettles religious conservatives - Feb 1, 2017
- Trump’s rise and GOP economics may shift Catholic Church’s priorities - Jan 13, 2017
- Is there a ‘Trump effect’ on public morality? - Oct 20, 2016
- ‘Hey ISIS, you suck!!!’ New campaign by #ActualMuslims pulls no punches - Aug 5, 2016
- Two conventions, two nominees, and a whole new culture war - Jul 29, 2016
- The divided soul of the Democratic Party - Jul 28, 2016
- Is Pope Francis a Lone Ranger on apologizing to gays? - Jul 1, 2016
- Bernie Sanders won’t be addressing pro-Israel group - Mar 19, 2016
- Boston Cardinal O’Malley praises Oscar winner ‘Spotlight’ - Mar 1, 2016
- Nun, Methodist bishop blast Trump for using faith as a ‘ploy to grab votes’ - Feb 24, 2016
- Pope opens free laundromat for homeless - Apr 11, 2017
- Vatican to Catholics: Cremation can be OK, but don’t scatter ashes! - Oct 25, 2016
- Clergy abuse survivor says Vatican commission is making progress - Sep 21, 2016
- Mother Teresa’s keys to sainthood: sharing poverty and showing mercy - Sep 2, 2016
- Pope Francis says care of environment a new ‘work of mercy’ - Sep 1, 2016
- Facebook founder meets Pope Francis. Friendly, if not yet ‘friends’ - Aug 29, 2016
- Pope Francis treats homeless to pizza and swim at the beach - Aug 15, 2016
- Pope Francis on free speech: ‘You cannot insult the faith of others’ - Jan 15, 2015
- Want to see Pope Francis’ vision for the church? Look at his new cardinals - Jan 5, 2015
- Pope Francis laments the ‘helpless cries of children’ around the world - Dec 26, 2014