joins anti-government protests and participates in rallies.
Venezuelan priest Luis Antonio Salazar has built a solid social media following over the past 2 years preaching the Bible over Instagram, breaking the mould of the country’s conservative Catholic Church.
Now he has raised his profile more by showing his support for opposition leader Juan Guaido and joining huge anti-government protests dressed in his cassock, offering blessings one moment and running from tear gas the next.
“If the people are on the street, you’ve got to be with the people,” the former male beauty pageant contestant said in his office in eastern Caracas, decorated with a cross and footage of The Virgin Mary. “Since January 23, I started going into the streets to accompany the people.”
Mr. Salazar, a friar of the Capuchin order who was once a contestant in a Venezuelan survival reality show, uses his iPhone to film a video series called “Living the Gospels”, a modern take on theology broadcast on Saturdays to 30,000 Instagram followers.
The one-minute videos discuss ideas such as inner peace through references to animated film Kung Fu Panda and the2000 action comedy Miss Congeniality.
“For me, he’s just like the rock-star priest, the millennial priest,” said student Carol Alvarez, 23, who hopes Mr. Salazar will lead her confirmation ceremony. Mr. Salazar additionally holds traditional Sunday mass that mixes the youthful demeanor of his social media videos with Catholic prayers and traditions.
One such mass in May caused 400 attendees — most significantly older than his typical Instagram audience — who stood in line to greet him and take selfies.
His sermons often elaborate on the Instagram posts.
“I explain quickly and (explain) how people can use it in their lives,” he said. “People tell me ‘if someone can explain it to me, I’ll understand it use it in my life’.”
Mr. Salazar said he got involved in the protests against President Nicolas Maduro as a result of being political is part of being Venezuelan: “From the peasant who harvests potatoes to Juan Guaido, the president in charge. We all talk about politics. I cannot exempt myself.”