VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Monday received Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, and his wife, Priscilla Chan, in a private audience at his residence in the Vatican.
“Together they spoke about how to use communications technology to alleviate poverty, encourage a culture of encounter, and to communicate a message of hope, especially to the most disadvantaged,” the Vatican Press Office said in a statement.
“It was a meeting we’ll never forget,” Zuckerberg said. “You can feel [the Pope’s] warmth and kindness, and how deeply he cares about helping people.”
Zuckerberg updated his personal page on Facebook with a photo of himself giving the Pope a model of Aquila, a solar-powered aircraft that Facebook hopes will expand Internet access in developing countries.
“Priscilla and I had the honor of meeting Pope Francis at the Vatican. We told him how much we admire his message of mercy and tenderness, and how he’s found new ways to communicate with people of every faith around the world.
We also discussed the importance of connecting people, especially in parts of the world without internet access. We gave him a model of Aquila, our solar-powered aircraft that will beam internet connectivity to places that don’t have it,” his personal FB post read.
The 32-year-old Facebook founder is in Italy to attend the wedding of Spotify’s Daniel Ek, which took place at lake Como yesterday.
Zuckerberg announced his trip to Italy last week following the devastating earthquake that hit Central Italy. During his visit to Rome, he also met with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, and is holding a live question and answer session later on Monday, saying he was “looking forward to spending time with our Italian community.”
When Pope Francis embarked on Instagram the founder and CEO of Facebook wrote: “I can’t wait to follow the Pope — and to see him continue his message of mercy, equality and justice with the world.”
But Jorge Mario Bergoglio is not a big computer user, as he himself admits.“I’m useless with computers…how embarrassing!,” he confided in his native Spanish: “Soy un tronco … Que verguenza!” Nor is he on Facebook. Yet in addition to Instagram, his nine multilingual Twitter accounts recently exceeded 30 million followers.
The Pope’s meeting on Monday with Zuckerberg is not his first encounter with leaders of the social media world. On January 15, the Pope also received in private audience Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman and former CEO of Google, together with Jared Cohen, head of Google Ideas.
Pope Francis’ views on social media are based on principles of proper discernment. In his Message for the 50th World Day of Communications, he said: “It is not technology which determines whether or not communication is authentic, but rather the human heart and our capacity to use wisely the means at our disposal. Social networks can facilitate relationships and promote the good of society, but they can also lead to further polarization and division between individuals and groups.
“The digital world is a public square, a meeting-place where we can either encourage or demean one another, engage in a meaningful discussion or unfair attacks,” he said in the same message. “I pray that this Jubilee Year, lived in mercy, “may open us to even more fervent dialogue so that we might know and understand one another better; and that it may eliminate every form of closed-mindedness and disrespect, and drive out every form of violence and discrimination” (Misericordiae Vultus, 23).
Addressing the Church in the same Message, the Pope invited the baptized to use social media to draw the world to Jesus Christ, saying:
“As sons and daughters of God, we are called to communicate with everyone, without exception. In a particular way, the Church’s words and actions are all meant to convey mercy, to touch people’s hearts and to sustain them on their journey to that fullness of life which Jesus Christ was sent by the Father to bring to all. This means that we ourselves must be willing to accept the warmth of Mother Church and to share that warmth with others, so that Jesus may be known and loved. That warmth is what gives substance to the word of faith; by our preaching and witness, it ignites the ‘spark’ which gives them life.”