San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Pope now offering indulgences in exchange for Twitter followers


Some annoying people reward their Twitter followers by following them back. Others offer discounts on products or services. Still others pay cash. But the Vatican just topped them all. Follow Pope Francis on Twitter during next week’s World Youth Day festivities in Brazil — or check out photos of the event on Pinterest — and you may get some time knocked off of your appointed stint in purgatory.

Sweet deal, right? I mean, even if you strongly suspect that purgatory is a thing that a bunch of charlatans made up a long time ago to take a little of the edge off of the whole heaven/hell dichotomy, a back-of-the-envelope Pascalian calculation would tell you that you might as well take the two seconds to click “follow” just in case.

Ah, but there’s a catch. As the most reverend Claudio Maria Celli of the august Pontifical Council for Social Communications told Italy’s Corriere Della Sera:

Yes, but be aware. You don’t get the indulgence the way you get a coffee from a vending machine. There’s no counter handing out certificates. To put it another way, it won’t be sufficient to attend the mass in Rio online, follow the Pope on your iPad or visit These are only tools that are available to believers.

What really matters is that the Pope’s tweets from Brazil, or the photos of World Youth Day that will be posted on Pinterest, should bear authentic spiritual fruit in the hearts of each one of us. Then even a youngster who is a very long way from Brazil and feels involved by a video, a simple text message or an email will be truly taking part in the World Youth Day and will receive the gift of the indulgence.

Well, to hell with it then. Or, I suppose, to hell with me.

© 2013, Slate

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