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.”
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.
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.