Pope Francis, who has confessed to being "a disaster" when it comes to technology himself, expressed admiration for beauty and fashion videos during a meeting with an eclectic group of YouTube stars on Sunday, 29 May. Praising 12 online vloggers from six continents, the pontiff encouraged them to support those of their followers who feel lost and help youth craft virtual identities.
Representing more than 27 million subscribers globally, the diverse group of celebrity YouTubers included Dubai-based Syrian Hayla Ghazal, whose YouTube channel aims to empower women and help introverted teens in the Middle East, as well as Mexican-American YouTube personality Dulce Candy who crossed the US border as an undocumented immigrant in 1994.
British vlogger Louise Pentland, best known on YouTube as SprinkleofGlitter, was also lauded by the pontiff for her beauty and fashion tips.
"I am glad that you carry out the type of work you said, following the line of beauty, it's a great thing. To preach beauty and show beauty helps neutralise aggression," Pope Francis said, according to the Guardian.
The 50-minute meeting included Argentina's YouTube comedian personality Lucas Castel, Brazil's Matemática Río, Italy's Greta Menchi and Matthew 'MatPat' Patrick from the US.
"YouTube has helped millions of people see that we have a lot in common, despite our differences. Building these bridges can start with a simple conversation, and over the past 11 years, we've seen YouTube creators use the power of video to do just that," Juniper Downs, head of policy for YouTube, wrote in a blog post.
"During the conversation with the Pope, these creators raised topics that they are passionate about as role models, including immigrant rights, gender equality, loneliness and self-esteem, and greater respect for diversity of all kinds."
The progressive bishop of Rome also encouraged his YouTube guests to help young people create their own virtual personalities as well.
"You can create a virtual identity; you belong to this circle at least virtually. From that you can start taking a path of optimism and hope," said Pope Francis.
Although Pope Francis isn't the first pontiff to embrace technology, he is one of the most tech-savvy yet.
Since he became the head of the Catholic church in 2013, Pope Francis has continued to show an increasing interest in digital media as a tool to reach more people, previously stating that the Internet, social networks and text messages were "a gift from God," if used wisely. However, he has also warned young people against becoming too engrossed on the internet and putting smartphones ahead of real relationships.
Expanding his presence on social media, the pontiff made his debut on Instagram in March with the launch of his papal account under the Latin name "franciscus" that has garnered 2.5 million followers so far.
Pope Francis also has a successful Twitter account that boasts more than 27 million followers and tweets in nine different languages. He has previously met with Silicon Valley leaders including Instagram's chief executive Kevin Systrom as well as Google's former CEO and current Alphabet executive chairman Eric Schmidt.