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No, Pope Francis Won’t Get You Out Of Hell For Following Him On Twitter

Submitted by on July 18, 2013 – 1:20 pm2 Comments

The story seemed too good to be true- “Pope Francis Offers Time Off Of Purgatory If You Follow Him On Twitter.” The problem is, it’s not true on multiple levels. Though the Vatican is encouraging Catholics to bear “spiritual fruit” using all available mediums, including newer ones like social media, the reality is a little more complicated.

The misunderstanding seems to have started in an article by The Guardian. The UK paper reported an unnamed sourced at the Vatican saying that following the events of the upcoming World Youth Day in Brazil (which Pope Francis will attend) on Twitter will be counted towards indulgences, or time off of purgatory for sins that have been confessed and absolved.

Indulgences were most famously abused by the Church in the middle ages, when they were exchanged for large sums of money. They were a major reason behind Martin Luther‘s 95 Theses and the creation of Protestantism.

In reality, a Vatican court that offers decisions to Catholics on the forgiveness of sins offered indulgences to those who genuinely and meaningfully followed the events of World Youth Day. The court also tried to open up the offer to those unable to travel for financial or health reasons.

Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest writing for Time, explains the difference:

That is, it’s not enough simply to follow the pope on Twitter. It’s not even enough to check his Twitter feed frequently. You need to be (a) contrite, (b) trying to follow the events at World Youth Day live and (c) performing these acts with “due devotion.”

So if you believe that there is a bad place that you go for a while after you die until you can go to a good place, and that certain people have the power to get you out of that bad place faster, the process is still slightly more complicated than the initial news suggested. However, as with many things, social media is indeed trying to streamline the transaction.

What do you think about the Church incorporating social media into indulgences?



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