The Vatican has reportedly launched an investigation after Pope Francis’s official account on Instagram became a source of embarrassment when it apparently “liked” a booty pic posted by a scantily-clad model.
On October 5, 27-year-old Natalia Garibotto posted her “sexy schoolgirl” picture to the photo-sharing social media platform.
It remains unclear when exactly the pontiff’s verified account gave the photo a “like,” but the pope’s official approval was still visible until Nov. 13 before it was unliked the very next day, reports the Catholic News Agency (CNA).
However, eagle-eyed social media watchers quickly noticed the pontiff’s username underneath her image – Pope Francis does have 7.4 million followers, after all – and word quickly spread of the saucy interaction, rapidly becoming a source of embarrassment for the Vatican’s social media team.
Garibotto’s management company, COY Co., capitalized on the publicity and shared the image on its own Instagram profile last Friday, joking that the company had “received the POPE’S OFFICIAL BLESSING.”
Unsurprisingly, Garibotto boasted to her 2.4 million Instagram followers that “At least I’m going to heaven.”
Meanwhile, other social media users used the opportunity to imply that the 83-year-old Pope– who has offered a number of modern, if not liberal, takes on various social issues – was some sort of “dirty old man.”
According to the Catholic News Agency, the Vatican takes the problem very seriously and has launched a full-fledged investigation to find out how the photo was liked.
As is the norm for public figures like the pope, a team of workers manages his social media accounts rather than him sitting on the papal throne and tweeting at all hours.
“The pope is not like Donald Trump, he’s not sitting around using his phone or computer to tweet all day long,” said Robert Mickens, the editor of the English-language edition of Catholic newspaper La Croix.
“He does, for example, approve the tweets – but not the likes – and on very rare occasions he has said he would like to tweet something because of a developing situation or emergency. So he would have nothing to do with this – it’s the communications department, and how this happens … who knows.”
As one spokesperson for the Holy See told the Guardian: “We can exclude that the ‘like’ came from the Holy See, and it has turned to Instagram for explanations.”
Since his election as pope, Francis – whose original name is Jorge Mario Bergoglio – has been wildly popular among Catholics and non-Catholics alike, primarily for his “man of the people” style and reputation that he earned as a working-class clergyman in his native Argentina.
On Twitter, the pope enjoys 18.8 million followers, and on Instagram he has garnered 7.4 million followers.
While relatively conservative on issues of sex and morality, Pope Francis has also been critical of the rigidly chaste and prudish nature of the clergy, arguing that the obsessive focus on the “sinful” nature of human sexuality has blinded the church to more vital problems facing human society.
In 2019, the Pope’s critics were in an uproar after he told the Jesuits of Mozambique:
“One dimension of clericalism is the exclusive moral fixation on the sixth commandment…because the most serious sins are those that are more angelical: pride, arrogance, dominion…. And the least serious are those that are less angelical, such as greed and lust. We focus on sex and then we do not give weight to social injustice, slander, gossip and lies. The Church today needs a profound conversion in this area.”
However, the fact that the Pope doesn’t write his own tweets or personally administer his own social media accounts means that it’s rather impossible that he himself liked Natalia Garibotto’s now-famous booty shot.
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