In a #blessed attempt to up his Twitter game, Pope Francis is now granting "time off purgatory" to anyone who follows @Pontifex during Catholic World Youth Day, a week-long event held in Rio de Janeiro.
Granting "indulgences" or remissions on the amount of time sinners have to spend in purgatory is a longstanding Catholic practice, but typically it involves carrying out tasks like climbing the Sacred Steps in Rome, which buys you a seven year discount. This year, however, the Vatican is extending that get-out-of-(some)-purgatory card to attendees of Catholic World Youth Day or anyone following from their smartphone.
Mindful of the faithful who cannot afford to fly to Brazil, the Vatican's sacred apostolic penitentiary, a court which handles the forgiveness of sins, has also extended the privilege to those following the "rites and pious exercises" of the event on television, radio and through social media.
"That includes following Twitter," said a source at the penitentiary, referring to Pope Francis' Twitter account, which has gathered seven million followers. "But you must be following the events live. It is not as if you can get an indulgence by chatting on the internet."
Caveat emptor: The scheme sounds about as far-fetched as getting pardoned by fake Joan Didion, but the news comes courtesy of The Guardian, the same source as most of your breaking national security news, so make of it what you will.
The Vatican's social media strategy also extends beyond Twitter:
Apart from the papal Twitter account, the Vatican has launched an online news portal supported by an app, a Facebook page, and it plans to use the online social networking site Pinterest.
Before you pin away your perversions and download your way to the kingdom of heaven, keep in mind only the truly penitent need apply, according to statements made by Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, "head of the pontifical council for social communication," to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.
"What really counts is that the tweets the Pope sends from Brazil or the photos of the Catholic World Youth Day that go up on Pinterest produce authentic spiritual fruit in the hearts of everyone," said Celli.
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