Millions of Christians observed Ash Wednesday this week to mark the beginning of Lent. While Pope Francis is scheduled to be Mexico, he is still reaching followers globally, continuing the celebration of Lent online. His latest platform? Telegram.
The Vatican moved on to the new messaging app after using WhatsApp for last year’s daily Lent messages. On Telegram, the Pope is posting to the “Keep Lent” channel, @pgpompei.According to Quartz, the organizers of the Keep Lent campaign encouraged followers to switch to Telegram, saying it’s “like WhatsApp, but better.”
As of Thursday afternoon, the channel had more than 6500 members following along for the Pontiff’s daily audio notes.
The Vatican has maintained a robust social media presence for the Pope with nine Twitter accounts, Instagram and YouTube to reach his global following. His accounts — most notably, Twitter — publish messages in several languages, mainly English, Italian and Spanish.
The Pope is especially popular in the global south, including Latin American countries, where free messaging services like WhatsApp are very popular due to its accessibility. His Telegram messages, however, have all been in Italian so far.
WhatsApp has been used by global leaders to reach an audience or constituents. Last year, several Spanish politicians used WhatsApp to reach voters and answer their questions. In 2014, politicians in India did the same.
However, leaders in the United States have not caught on to using these messaging services. While WhatsApp boasts 1 billion users globally, most of that traffic comes outside of the U.S. So don’t expect to be getting any WhatsApp or Telegram messages from candidates any time soon. They’ll probably stick to awkward emails.