So Pope Francis is the most influential tweeter. Here are nine reasons why he's so popular.

Published 26 June 2014  |  
Wikipedia

The Pope has officially been named as the most influential world leader on Twitter.

With around 14 million followers on his nine different language accounts, he is far behind US President Barack Obama's 43.7 million. However, the annual Twiplomacy study this year shows that Pope Francis is still "by far the most influential tweep".

His tweets, which often focus on prayer, unity and persecuted Christians, are retweeted by his faithful followers more than 10,000 times from his Spanish account, while his English tweets also fare well – getting an average of 6,462 retweets.

The second world leader in line to his title is Venezuela's President Nicolas Madurois, who is retweeted around 2,065 times each time he sends out a 140 character blast.

Obama, on the other hand, receives a mere 1,400 retweets on average.

Matthias Lüfkens, who heads up the Twiplomacy survey, says: "It's not the number of followers which is really important, but the reach, the engagement," and perhaps truer words have never been spoken of the Pope.

His staggering popularity has been attributed to his familiar, laid back style – earning him unprecedented favour with Catholics, Protestants and those of no faith at all.

Having led the Church for over a year now, the stories that underline his papacy provide a narrative that speak of a graceful humility and gentle kindness.

"To depict the pope as a sort of superman, a sort of star, seems offensive to me," he said in an interview in March. "The pope is a man who laughs, cries, sleeps tranquilly and has friends like everyone else, a normal person."

So what's behind his popularity, with people of all faiths and none? Here are nine unexpected ways he's endeared himself to the masses:

1) He is the anti-Godfather. The Pope recently denounced members of the mafia in what is being described as the Vatican's strongest statement against organised crime for over 20 years. "Those who in their lives follow this path, as Mafiosi do, are not in communion with God. They are excommunicated," the Pontiff declared before a crowd gathered for Mass in Calabria in June.

2) He's politically astute.

When he visited the Holy Land earlier this year, he made two unscheduled stops - one to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, and the other to the separation barrier in Bethlehem.

 

3) He has friends in unlikely places. Francis has repeatedly demonstrated his willingness to meet with ordinary people, refusing to hide behind bullet proof glass while travelling. "I couldn't greet the people and tell them that I love them from within a sardine tin," he explained.

A photo of him kissing and praying for a man with a terrible facial disfigurement without waiting to hear if it was contagious went viral last year. Not long after becoming Pope, Francis stunned the global community by washing the feet of young prisoners, including a Muslim woman, on Holy Thursday – taking upon himself a task that has until now always been passed on to lower cardinals. This year he washed and kissed the feet of 12 disabled people, again including women and a Muslim man.

4) He's down with the kids. The first ever papal selfie took the world by storm as a group of teenagers managed to snap a quick picture with Francis during a pilgrimage to Rome. Featuring a cheeky grin from the Pope himself, we're still hoping it makes his Twitter profile picture.

 

5) He's not snared by the trappings of the Vatican. The Pope has famously eschewed the Popemobile, a Mercedes Benz, in favour of a modest second-hand Renault 4. He's also refused to wear the red leather papal shoes and lives in a simple apartment rather than the luxurious papal suite – all part of his war against corruption in the Church. "I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security," he wrote in his apostolic exhortation.

6) He almost could have joined the Hairy Bikers. Pope Francis blessed an unlikely bunch of 3,500 bikers last June, and was presented with his very own Harley Davidson and matching leather jacket. He seems to prefer a simple papal robe to full leathers, though, and sold the bike for £200,200, giving the money to a homeless charity in Rome.

7) He has wardrobe malfunctions. Remember when this happened?

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8) He can joke about the football. A long-time fan of Argentinean soccer club San Lorenzo de Almagro, the Pope jokingly promised not to pray for Argentina during the world cup – though the nation's team did take a humungous photo of Francis with them to Rio. 

9) He's ALWAYS smiling. "An evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral," he writes in Evangelii Gaudium. Amen.

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