The pope is not offering time off from purgatory just for following him or retweeting him on Twitter.
After his real intentions got twisted around, something becoming more and more common as half-stories and misperceptions spin through the Internet world, headlines like Slate's "Pope now offering indulgences in exchange for Twitter followers," began appearing online, the St. Louis Fox 2 Now station said
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Another good one came from the LA Times, “Follow pope on line, get to heaven sooner – Facebook likes don’t count
The reality is much different than those and other headlines and stories indicated, Fox 2 Now said.
The miscommunication started after the Apostolic Penitentiary wrote a statement about World Youth Day in Brazil in June. In it, the Vatican office dealing with sin said it would be possible to receive a “plenary indulgence” for participating in the Youth Day.
Without delving into the complexity of indulgences, the statement ended, Fox said, with the idea that others could participate “with due devotion, via the new means of social communication.” In other words, the station said, if you couldn’t travel to Brazil to participate, you could still participate online.
A Vatican source apparently told The Guardian, as reported by Fox 2 Now, “that includes following Twitter.”
It escalated from there.
But the LA Times reported that while it isn’t as simple as retweeting tweets
, there is some truth behind the thought that the Catholic Church is trying to reach young people where they hang out – online.
The decree in June said, according to the LA Times, “the faithful who are legitimately impeded (from attending events in person) can obtain the plenary indulgence if … they follow the same rites and pious exercises … by the new means of social communication.”
The newspaper said, though, that church leaders are making sure people understand that this isn’t the easy way to a shorter time in purgatory.
“You can’t obtain indulgences like getting a coffee from a vending machine,” the Times quoted from Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, in an Italian newspaper story.
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