A Twitter Shortcut to Heaven

Tech-savvy Catholics might be able to spend less time in purgatory

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Pilgrims at the last World Youth Day attend a mass led by Pope Benedict XVI in Madrid on August 21, 2011.

In a surprising development somewhat inconsistent with the Roman Catholic Church’s traditionalist image, Pope Francis announced that individuals who follow the events of the upcoming 28th World Youth Day in Rio De Janeiro online will be able to receive indulgences– partial reductions in the punishment for committing sins.

In a decree, Francis expressed:

“The faithful who are legitimately impeded, will be able to obtain the Plenary Indulgence provided that, complying with the usual spiritual, sacramental and prayerful conditions, with the intention of filial submission to the Roman Pontiff, participate spiritually in the sacred functions during the specified days, provided that they follow the same rites and pious exercises while they are taking place, through television and radio or, always with the due devotion, through the new means of social communication.”

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To those lay folk who may not understand, this means that if you can’t attend the event — be it for physical or financial reasons — yet actively follow and participate in the rites and rituals of the July 23-28 summit, you will be granted a lessening in the time he or she must serve for sinning. One of those “means of social communication” is Twitter. You can follow the World Youth Day @wyd_en or, of course, follow @Pontifex himself.

(MORE: Pope Francis’s Vatican: How the New Pontiff is Shaking Things Up)

The idea of indulgences became pervasive in the 11th and 12th centuries in conjunction with the belief of purgatory. A sort of half-way-house on the road to heaven, purgatory is conceptualized as a place where people must pay off their debt of sins before they can enter heaven. Indulgences allow adherents of the Catholic Church to cut down on their purgatory duty while still on earth.

So for Catholics who can’t make it to South America anytime soon: Your iPone may be the newest step on your road to salvation.

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Excellent, the church has finally moved into the 21st century with social media! Will they now tackle the other minor issues such as rampant paedophilia and their medieval approach to contraception and marriage equality? 


• The original decree text ( see http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-francis-grants-indulgences-for-world-youth-da  ) has a preceding paragraph, omitted in this article (sic), which explains what the "usual conditions" are (=state of grace). Therefore it's not inconsistent with the Roman Catholic teaching to participate spiritually in Rio through the new means of social communication, including the "iPone" (sic):


plenary Indulgence

      , which can be obtained once a day under the usual conditions (sacramental Confession, Eucharistic Communion, and prayer according to the intention of the Supreme Pontiff), and applicable also by way of suffrage to the souls of the faithful departed, is granted to the truly penitent and contrite faithful who devoutly participate in the sacred rites and pious exercises that will be held in Rio de Janeiro.//

"The faithful who are legitimately impeded can obtain the plenary Indulgence if, complying with the usual spiritual, sacramental and prayer conditions, with the purpose of filial submission to the Roman Pontiff, they participate spiritually in the sacred functions on the appointed days, provided they follow these same rites and pious exercises as they take place via television or radio, or, always with appropriate devotion, by the new means of social communication."

• As for an in-depth correct understanding of Indulgences, there are several Catholic apologetics sites in English, but the ultimate revision of the Church's position goes back to 1967, after Vatican II, by Pope Paul VI's:  INDULGENTIARUM DOCTRINA (see http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/apost_constitutions/documents/hf_p-vi_apc_19670101_indulgentiarum-doctrina_en.html )