Some fairly prominent people (or imitations of fairly prominent people) have made Facebook Messenger chatbots since the platform was created last year.
The bot is named Missiobot and comes from Missio USA, an organization inside The Pontifical Mission Societies, which is, as the bot states, sort of like the pope’s personal Red Cross.
Shortly after you start a chat with Missiobot, you meet Pope Francis, and it doesn’t take long for a smiley face emoji with hearts in its eyes to enter the conversation.
Pope Francis in bot form is kind of funny. To be clear, the pope isn’t exactly Louis C.K. There’s no stand-up schtick, but the bot does serve up thumbs up shots of the pope and a GIF of him trying (and failing) to catch a baseball, followed by a self-deprecating joke.
It also has more personality and is a lot more fun to speak with than most Facebook Messenger bots you may have encountered.
Maybe it isn’t surprising to find a sense of humor in a bot that’s modelled after a pontiff who’s considered a bit unorthodox compared to his predecessors.
Missiobot tells stories in a conversational manner in the pope’s tone of voice, augmented with photos, video, audio snippets, and text.
The projects supported by the pope’s Red Cross are no laughing manner. They include helping nuns care for kids in the slums of Nairobi, getting wheelchairs and supplies for wheelchairs to kids in Zambia, and raising funds for kids in Cuba to play baseball. Each project is headed by a nun.
Each project story ends with Pope Francis encouraging you to lend a hand and three call-to-action options: donate $7, share the story, or add a Missio overlay for your profile pic.
Missiobot is currently featured by Messenger staff in the search area of Messenger. That’s a spot reserved for bots that have demonstrated high engagement or retention, former Messenger product manager Seth Rosenberg told VentureBeat last year.