KEY POINTS

  • Pope Francis' Instagram account "liked" a racy photo 
  • The "like" was removed after news of the incident broke
  • A group of staffers manages the pope's social media accounts

The Vatican has launched an investigation into Pope Francis’s Instagram account after it "liked" a racy photo of a Brazilian model. 

Natalia Garibotto, a model and influencer, had shared a post in early October that featured her in a revealing, schoolgirl-style clothing. She captioned it with a devil horn emoji, along with the line: “I can teach you a thing or two.”

Earlier this month, Pope Francis’s official account, @franciscus, was found to have “liked” Garibotto’s photo. The “like” led the model’s management company, COY Co, to repost the image on its own Instagram account Friday, saying they have “received the POPE’S OFFICIAL BLESSING.”

Garibotto, who has 2.4 million followers, also reposted a video showing that the pope's account indeed "liked" her post. She added: “At least I’m going to heaven.” 

The "like" was removed on Nov. 14, a day after the Catholic News Agency asked the Holy See Press Office for comment. 

It is unclear when the pope’s Instagram account like the photo. While a team of staffers are responsible for the pope’s social media account, a spokesperson for the Vatican confirmed that none of their staff members liked Garibotto’s photo. The official also revealed they have reached out to Instagram “for explanations.”

“We can exclude that the ‘like’ came from the Holy See, and it has turned to Instagram for explanations,” the spokesperson told The Guardian

Robert Mickens, editor of La Croix, explained that the pope approve the tweets published on his social media account. He would also have to coordinate with the Vatican’s communications department on rare occasions that he would like to tweet something because of an emergency. 

“The pope is not like Donald Trump, he’s not sitting around using his phone or computer to tweet all day long. 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,” Mickens told The Guardian. 

“So he would have nothing to do with this -- it’s the communications department, and how this happens … who knows.”

Pope Francis, now 83, has amassed a massive following across several social media platforms. On Twitter, the pope is followed by 18.8 million accounts. He was also named as the most popular world leader on the platform in 2017. 

On Instagram, Pope Francis had over 7.4 million followers. His account does not follow other accounts. 

Pope Francis delivered a video address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York Pope Francis delivered a video address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York Photo: AFP / Filippo MONTEFORTE