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Pope Francis Joins Instagram, Garners 575,000 Followers

by Elisha Fieldstadt /

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Pope Francis is no stranger to the selfie — and now he can share his favorite ones.

The social media savvy pontiff personally launched his own Instagram account Saturday, posting a picture of himself kneeling in prayer with a caption in several languages asking that the faithful pray for him.

"I am beginning a new journey, on Instagram, to walk with you along the path of mercy and the tenderness of God," said a post on Pope Francis' Twitter account Saturday.

Five hours after his announcement on Twitter and his first photo post, the pope had 575,000 followers on Instagram.

His first Instagram post garnered more than 92,000 likes and his second — another picture of the pontiff praying and posted four hours after his first — got more than 26,000 likes within just an hour.

The pope's account, under the handle @franciscus, was set up by the 79-year-old Francis with the help of Instagram CEO and co-founder Kevin Systrom, according to the Vatican. His profile reads: "I want to walk with you along the way of God's mercy and tenderness."

Pope Francis also personally posted his first photo of himself with Systrom's assistance, Vatican Radio reported.

"Watching Pope Francis post his first photo to Instagram today was an incredible moment. @franciscus, welcome to the Instagram community! Your messages of humility, compassion and mercy will leave a lasting mark," Systrom wrote on Instagram with a picture of him with the pope.

While Instagram is new to the pope, he has been on Twitter since March 2013, when he took over Pope Benedict's @Pontifex handle. He has nearly 9 million Twitter followers.

According to the Vatican, Francis' secretariat for communications, Dario Viganò, said the pope decided to branch out to Instagram because of his "conviction that pictures can reveal many things that words can’t."

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