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How a mysterious Instagram ‘like’ for Brazilian model Natalia Garibotto sparked a Vatican probe

The Vatican has launched an investigation after the Pope’s official Instagram account “liked” a revealing photo of a Brazilian model.

It is unclear when the photo of Natalia Garibotto was favoured by the verified account, but it was still visible on 13 November before being unliked the following day, the Catholic News Agency (CNA) reported. 

Officials are now seeking answers from Instagram to track down who hit like icon on the photo. 

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

Pope Francis’s official Instagram account (Photo: Instagram)

What has the Brazilian model said about the like?

Garibotto, who has 2.4 million Instagram followers, joked on Twitter: “At least I’m going to heaven.”

Coy Co, her management company, made the most of the publicity and reposted a screenshot on its Instagram account last Friday claiming the company had “received the Pope’s official blessing”.

Pope Francis is popular across social media, with his official Instagram account, which operates under the username @franciscus, attracting 7.4 million followers. It does not follow any other accounts.

On Twitter, the Pope has 18.8 million followers. In 2017, he was the most popular world leader on the site. 

Was it Pope Francis or someone else?

A team of people manage the Pope’s various social media accounts, sources close to the Vatican’s press office said. One possibility for the rogue like could be that a member of staff had the account linked to their phone but forgot to switch over to their personal account to like the photo. 

The Pope rarely composes social media content himself. “The Pope is not like Donald Trump, he’s not sitting around using his phone or computer to tweet all day long,” Robert Mickens, editor of the English edition of Catholic newspaper La Croix, told the Guardian

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

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