.- A Vatican-sponsored news application for smart phones known as “The Pope App” has risen to the top of the charts in the iTunes store, reflecting a spike in interest in the papacy and newly-elected Pope Francis.
In the last week, The Pope App is the most-downloaded news app for iPhone in the U.S., Canada, Spain, Venezuela, Peru, Poland, Chile, Mexico, Portugal, and Pope Francis’ home country of Argentina.
It is the second most downloaded news app in France and Germany and the third most downloaded in Germany. The app also ranks in the top ten in eight other countries, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications said March 23.
The Pope App is managed by the Pontifical Council and uses content from www.news.va, the Vatican’s multimedia, multilingual news portal.
The application provides news and official speeches from Pope Francis as well as images and videos of his appearances. Users can access live coverage of papal events and receive alerts about them.
In addition, it gives users access to live webcams of the Vatican, including a view overlooking St. Peter’s Square, a view of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, Bl. John Paul II’s tomb, and the papal retreat at Castel Gandolfo.
The app is available for the iPhone, the iPad and Android devices. The high-definition iPad version was recently released, offering higher resolution versions of the same content.
Pope Benedict XVI launched The Pope App on Jan. 23. Since then, it has been downloaded more than 155,000 times across all mobile devices.
The application is part of a push in the Vatican to reach out using new media. Pope Benedict also launched a Twitter account, using the handle “Pontifex,” in December 2012. Pope Francis now uses the account to reach millions of followers in numerous languages.
Brandon Vogt, a Catholic blogger who has authored a book on the Catholic Church and the new media, said there has been a “flurry of digital activity” on the part of the Vatican that has been “very surprising and encouraging.”
Vogt told CNA in January that the new technology and media can be “the most powerful means that we’ve ever had” to reach out to both Catholics and non-Catholics.