A week after his election as leader of the 1.2-billion strong Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis's popularity continues to soar as his online followers doubled that of his predecessor and he receives invitations from governments for an apostolic visit.
As of March 20, the followers of former Argentinean Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio breached the 2 million mark, indicating he continues to excite both the faithful as well as techies.
Pope Francis resumed using the @Pontifex handle that Pope Emeritus opened in December 2012 but left on Feb 28, 2013 when he resigned from his post.
Since March 17 when Pope Francis started tweeting, he has posted 3 messages, the latest of which was a gist of his Tuesday inaugural mass, which read, "True power is service. The Pope must serve all people, especially the poor, the weak, the vulnerable."
His growing popularity could be attributed to the simplicity he brought into the Holy See as evidenced by his ditching tradition in favour of practicality such as opting for his old black shoes rather than new red Prada loafers, an open jeep instead of a Mercedes Benz popemobile, a wooden cross and not a gold cross and even asking fellow Argentineans not to attend his inaugural mass and instead donate the money saved to the poor.
Thus, he has been compared to his predecessor and now to another popular fellow who has 1 billion followers.
While the behaviour of Catholic Church leaders in the past, particularly their cover up of sexual offences made by priests, has turned off the faithful, The Telegraph noted that now, even atheists love Pope Francis, conjuring up images of the beloved and charismatic Pope John Paul II whose red shoes appeared too big for Pope Benedict XVI to fill in.
Telegraph writer Jake Wallis Simons, who has confessed to being just two drinks short of being an atheist, pointed out that until Pope Francis came, only the Dalai Lama among current religious leaders has attracted widespread acclaim.
"However, in the brief time since his selection, Pope Francis has attracted a remarkable level of affection from both the faithful and the faithless. Attacks from the Guardian and others have largely failed to stick, instead, the Pope has received a remarkable amount of accolades from a wide variety of sources," Mr Simons pointed out.
He cited the pope paying his hotel bills, traveling by bus and making his own phone calls are examples of someone who makes an effort to avoid the trappings of luxury that an occupant of the position normally gets.
One good example of an atheist who even invited Pope Francis for a pastoral visit is Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard. She told Parliament on Wednesday that her representative in the inaugural mass, former Governor-General Sir William Deane, invited the pontiff to be the fourth pope to visit the land down under.
"Speaker, it is good to report that after this brief conversation, Pope Francis said he does hope to visit Australia," Ms Gillard quoted the former GG.
Another Asia-Pacific country that invited Pope Francis for an apostolic visit is the Philippines, the region's only Catholic country. The invitation was extended by Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay for the pontiff to visit the country in 2016 for the 51st International Eucharistic Congress to be held in the province of Cebu.
Mr Binay quoted the pope as saying that he would probably come. Unlike Australia, only two popes had visited the Philippines - Pope Paul VI in 1970 and Pope John Paul II who visited in 1981 and 1998 for the World Youth Day hosted by Manila.
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