The Pope's Twitter followers can get out of purgatory earlier, Vatican says

It could be the digital-age version of the indulgencia: instead of prayers and penance to ease the burden of your sins, you could turn to the Internet.

The Vatican's court handling pardons for sins said Catholics may earn virtual indulgences by following Pope Francis at World Youth Day on Twitter.

But Catholics should not think of junking their prayer books for an Internet connection: they still have to exert effort to earn the indulgences, The Guardian reported.

"You can't obtain indulgences like getting a coffee from a vending machine," The Guardian quoted Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, head of the pontifical council for social communication, as telling the Italian daily Corriere della Sera.

Also, the penitentiary said getting an indulgence would depend on the Catholic concern having already confessed and being "truly penitent and contrite."

"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.

An indulgence is believed to lessen the time Catholics should spend in purgatory to be cleansed of their sins. Usually they are earned via certain tasks like climbing the Sacred Steps in Rome - or attending events like the coming World Youth Day in Brazil.

But for the World Youth Day, the Vatican's sacred apostolic penitentiary extended the indulgence to those following the "rites and pious exercises" on TV, radio—and social media.

"That includes following Twitter. But you must be following the events live. It is not as if you can get an indulgence by chatting on the internet," The Guardian quoted a source at the penitentiary as saying, referring to Francis' Twitter account.

It added one should pray while following events in Rio online with "requisite devotion."

Also, the Vatican launched an online news portal with a mobile app and a Facebook page, amid plans to use the online social networking site Pinterest. — TJD, GMA News

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