This is one of the billboards launched by the Diocese of London featuring one of Pope Francis' inspirational tweets. Photo courtesy of the Diocese of London

London Diocese co-opts Pope Francis to spread its prayerful message

  • December 10, 2014

The London Diocese is taking advantage of the overwhelming popularity of Pope Francis to spread a prayerful message.

The diocese has launched a billboard advertising campaign to spread the word and has co-opted Pope Francis to help get the message across, said Mark Adkinson, director of communications for the Diocese of London.

“Billboards have been around for a long time but this is the first time that the diocese has taken out billboards,” he said. “We wanted a billboard that would stand out and words alone aren’t going to do that. In terms of what is the most popular image about the Catholic Church right now it is Francis.”

Recently a local billboard company approached the diocese with an enticing financial offer, which Adkinson wished to keep private, for the use of nine billboards for four weeks. The intention is to unveil the billboards in three phases. The first was unveiled to the public during the week of Nov. 24, the second wave was to be completed on Dec. 8 and the final phase is scheduled to be up on Dec. 29.

One billboard shows a To Do list reminding people to pray accompanied by Francis’ image. On another, the Holy Father’s face is matched with one of his inspirational tweets.

“We’re just trying to remind people that prayer is important and as they are out rushing from one event to another, from one mall or store to another, that it is important for them just to take a very short period of time during the day just to say a quick prayer,” said Adkinson. “Society is changing so quickly and there are so many different distractions, for lack of a better word, coming at you every day making life very hectic. It seems that instead of making life easier technology sometimes has made it more work for us and more distracting — it is hard to get heard in all of that.”

London isn’t the only Ontario diocese to have used billboards to spread the word. The Archdiocese of Toronto has employed this tactic a number of times over the years, said director of communications Neil MacCarthy.

“The most well-known (billboard) campaign was likely the 1984 Dare to be a Priest Like Me campaign,” he said. “Smaller campaigns were also undertaken during the Jubilee Year of 2000 where we invited people to come back to the faith using public transit advertisement billboards. Billboards were also used in the promotion of World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto.”

The diocese has also used billboard space as part of the annual ShareLife campaign.

Whether or not London will continue to use the approach is yet to be seen.

“We are going to evaluate the success of the campaign after it is over and decide whether it is something worth integrating into future events or projects,” said Adkinson, adding that the campaign is also running on the diocese’s web site and social media pages.

“It is really amazing the positive remarks people are making. The only negative comments that people have been why only London and when is it going to happen in the rest of the diocese.”

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