Tech-savvy Catholics can now keep track of their church’s leader from their iOS devices with the launch of The Pope App to coincide with Pope Benedict XVI’s annual message for World Communications Day.
This isn’t the first time the Vatican has tried its hand at an app for the pope. In 2009, Facebook and iPhone apps were launched alongside the Pope2you website, though both are now defunct. Pope Benedict XVI has built up a strong social media presence, though, with a regularly updated YouTube channel launched in 2008 and a Twitter account, @pontifex, launched just last year.
The new app is available for free from the iTunes App Store and comes in five languages. The app allows users to follow papal events live, with alerts to let them know when something is about to begin.
Content that can be accessed on the app includes the latest news from the Vatican, official speeches, galleries of images and videos, the pope’s calendar and links to other relevant services.
The app also has a live webcam feed from key areas throughout the Vatican, broadcasting from St Peter’s Square, the surrounding colonnade and St Peter’s Basilica.
Social media: the agora of the modern world
The Pope App was released on Wednesday and was followed on Thursday by a message from the pope for the Feast of St Francis de Sales. The feast day of the patron saint of journalists and the Catholic press (among other things) is traditionally the day when the Vatican releases the pope’s message discussing the theme for its World Communications Day, which will take place on 12 May 2013.
In a post titled ‘Social Networks: Portals of truth and faith; new spaces for evangelisation’, Pope Benedict XVI reflected on modern communications and said digital social networks are helping to create a new agora.
“The growing dialogue in social networks about faith and belief confirms the importance and relevance of religion in public debate and in the life of society,” he wrote. “Social networks, as well as being a means of evangelisation, can also be a factor in human development. As an example, in some geographical and cultural contexts where Christians feel isolated, social networks can reinforce their sense of real unity with the worldwide community of believers. The networks facilitate the sharing of spiritual and liturgical resources, helping people to pray with a greater sense of closeness to those who share the same faith.”