Just seven months after The Holy See brought the Vatican into the digital age by joining Twitter, Pope Francis’s Twitter account has already amassed 2.7 million followers, or about 40 million fewer than that of the false prophet Justin Bieber.
However, this week the Church made an announcement that is sure to elevate the 76-year old Pontiff to an even greater level of popularity on the microblogging service. According to Vatican officials, Catholics who follow the Pope’s tweets will now be granted indulgences, which reduce the amount of time the faithful have to spend in purgatory before passing through the pearly gates.
Not all of the Tweets from Pope Francis’s Twitter offer these remissions, however. The Vatican confirmed that following the Pontiff’s Twitter dispatches from next week’s Catholic World Youth Day in Brazil will get you a bit closer to Heaven. But recent Papal Tweets, such as “Christians are always full of hope; they should never get discouraged,” are simply for your earthly inspiration.
Indulgences have a controversial history. The practice of selling them, often to rich men for large sums of money, caused a schism in the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages and eventually led to the Protestant Reformation. However, over the past 50 years indulgences have typically been granted for prayers and good works.
As the Church moves into the 21st Century with a new Facebook page, a Papal app and plans to join Pinterest (where the Pope will presumably post really complicated recipes for wafers and wine), we wonder if there will be more controversy when indulgences inevitably go viral.
We’re also wondering what would be more boring: 40 days in purgatory or an afternoon reading the Pope’s Tweets.
Photo: Edgar Jimenez