Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is getting ready to welcome Pope Francis in less than a week for the 28th World Youth Day.Thousands of young Catholics are heading there and the rally will be historical because he is the first pope from Latin America. With the visit of the Pope to Brazil, the Vatican has made two announcements, the first one is that the Pope will not use the bulletproof popemobile, and the second one is that he plans to grant plenary indulgences by Twitter. Which means that your soul could be save with a single tweet.
Among Catholics it is believed that there are some ways to obtain a plenary indulgence, meaning you don´t have to spend a great amount of time in the purgatory, following some conditions such as: sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion, prayer for the intention of the sovereign Pontiff, and now, following Pope Francis on twitter.
It appears that the Catholic Church is adapting to new times. Former pope Benedict XVI was already using a twitter account since mid-December; however, he stopped using it when he resigned last March. The official pope twitter account was reactivated with the tweet, “Habemus papam Franciscum;” ever since, Pope Francis has been constantly using his Twitter account, offering Twitter sermons or words of encouragement for the week.
During an audience between Cardinal Manuel Monteiro de Castro and the Pope, it was announced that anyone attending the Rio World Youth Day would obtain a plenary indulgence. For Catholics attending the event means total remission of sins committed and no obligation of penitence. However, the Vatican is aware that not everyone can afford to fly to Brazil. Furthermore, the Vatican´s sacred apostolic penitentiary, a court which handles the forgiveness of sins, has extended that benefit to believers who follow the event on television, radio, and through social media; “that includes following Twitter.”
Although, Mgr. Claudio Maria Celli, president of the pontifical council for social communications, warned believers, “you can´t obtain indulgences like getting a coffee from a vending machine.”
Moreover, a source at the penitentiary explained that to get the total indulgence, followers need to previously confessed and being “truly penitent and contrite.” Besides the Pope´s Twitter account, the Vatican has launched an online news portal supported by an app, a Facebook page, and a Pinterest account.
Obviously, for the non believers the thought of saving your soul with a single tweet seems absurd. Andrew Brown explains in his blog for the British newspaper the Guardian, “Indulgences, after all, were, the single greatest and grossest abuse of papal power to inspire the Reformation.”Also, Mr. Brown commented “Does it matter at all what technology he uses to spread his opinions? Is there anything intrinsically more ridiculous in following devotion on Twitter than in flesh, or on television?”
Grant Gallicho, the associate editor of Commonweal magazine commented; “a door is just another kind of technology. For most young people today, their doorway to the marketplace of ideas is social media. Why shouldn’t Twitter serve as a way into the church?”
The idea of saving your soul with a single tweet might seem new and strange, but at least Pope Francis is trying to use new technology to spread his message. According to Bob O´Gorman, a former religion professor, the idea comes from the Bible, when Jesus explained his disciples in the Gospel of Matthew that where two or more of them are gathered in his name, he would be present in the midst.
By: Oskar Guzman
Special correspondent Mexico and Canada.