Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Vatican cuts time spent in Purgatory for Pope's Twitter followers during Brazil trip

Court in charge of forgiveness of sins says those that follow upcoming event via social media will be granted indulgences

Pope Francis waves to the faithful after visiting San Gerlando church during his visit to the island of Lampedusa on July 8, 2013 in Italy.
Pope Francis waves to the faithful after visiting San Gerlando church during his visit to the island of Lampedusa on July 8, 2013 in Italy.
This early 1950's picture released by journalist Sergio Rubin, shows Jorge Mario Bergoglio, right, posing with unidentified schoolmates of a preparatory school in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Cardinal Bergoglio, who took the name of Pope Francis, was elected on Wednesday, March 13, 2013 the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Sergio Rubin, ho)
The pope after the Mass (AP)
Pope Francis greets the faithful prior to his first 'Urbi et Orbi' blessing from the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica during Easter Mass on March 31, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican.
In this 1973 photo released by the El Salvador School, Priest Jorge Mario Bergoglio, right, and priest Pedro Arupe give a Mass at the church in the El Salvador school in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Bergoglio was elected pope on Wednesday, March 13, 2013, making him the first pope ever from the Americas. Bergoglio, who was born in 1936, chose the name Pope Francis. (AP Photo/El Salvador School)
Pope Francis washes the foot of an inmate at a juvenile detention centre in Rome (AP/L'Osservatore Romano)
VATICAN Pope 57...Pope Francis waves to the crowd from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who chose the name of Francis is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)...I
This undated handout reproduction photo made available by Maria Helena Bergoglio, shows Jorge Mario Bergoglio as a teenager, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Bergoglio was elected pope March 13, 2013, making him the first pope ever from the Americas. Bergoglio, who was born in 1936, chose the name Pope Francis. (AP Photo/Bergoglio family photo)
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - MARCH 19: Pope Francis greets German Chancellor Angela Merkel during the Inauguration Mass on March 19, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. The mass was held in front of an estimated crowd of up to one million pilgrims and faithful who have filled the square and the surrounding streets to see the former Cardinal of Buenos Aires officially take up his role as pontiff. Pope Francis' inauguration took place in front of Cardinals and spiritual leaders as well as heads of state from around the world. (Photo by Guido Bergmann - Bundesregierung Pool via Getty Images)
This undated handout reproduction photo made available by Maria Helena Bergoglio, shows Jorge Mario Bergoglio, left, and his late brother Oscar, posing for a photo in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Bergoglio was elected pope March 13, 2013, making him the first pope ever from the Americas. Bergoglio, who was born in 1936, chose the name Pope Francis. (AP Photo/Bergoglio family photo)
Visitiors wave flags from Germany and Argentina in Vatican square before the inauguration of Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Tuesday, March 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - MARCH 19: President of Argentina Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner attends the Inauguration Mass of Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square for his Inauguration Mass on March 19, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. The inauguration of Pope Francis is being held in front of an expected crowd of up to one million pilgrims and faithful who have crowded into St Peter's Square and the surrounding streets to see the former Cardinal of Buenos Aires officially take up his position. Pope Francis' inauguration takes place in front his cardinals, spiritual leaders as well as heads of states from around the world and he will now lead an estimated 1.3 billion Catholics. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

Salvation – or at least a shorter stay in Purgatory – might now be only a tweet away with news that Pope Francis is to offer “indulgences” – remissions for temporary punishment – to the faithful who follow him on the social media site.

Around 1.5 million are expected to flock to Rio de Janeiro to celebrate World Youth Day with the Argentine pontiff later this month. But for those who can’t make it to Brazil,  forgiveness may be available to contrite sinners who follow Francis’s progress via their TV screen or social networks.

The Sacred Apostolic Penitentiary, the Vatican court that rules on the forgiveness of sins, has said that indulgences may be given to those who follow the “rites and pious exercises” of the event on television, radio and through social media.

The Penitentiary said that Pope Francis' Twitter account, which has already gathered seven million followers, would be one such medium.

Vatican officials, noted however, that to obtain indulgences over the internet or otherwise, believers would first have to confess their sins, offer prayers and attend Mass.

“You can't obtain indulgences like getting a coffee from a vending machine,” Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, head of the pontifical council for social communication, told the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

Pope Francis is forgoing his bulletproof popemobile for his upcoming trip to Brazil for the Catholic Church's youth festival.

The Argentine pontiff will instead use the same open-topped car he uses for travelling around St Peter's Square when he arrives in Rio de Janeiro on July 22.

In recent times, popes have always used the protected popemobile for trips outside Rome, but Francis ended the tradition when he used an open-topped Fiat during his recent visit to the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Francis has made a point of tweaking Vatican protocol, especially where it concerns the trappings of the papacy and his ability to connect with ordinary people.

Vatican spokesman the Rev Federico Lombardi announced the change during a briefing about the pope's July 22-28 trip.

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