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The Vatican's Social Media Outreach Isn't Just Salvation Through Twitter

Yes, the Vatican is offering indulgences to those who follow Pope Francis on Twitter during World Youth Day, but that's just one small part of their social media campaign.

Posted on July 17, 2013, at 2:52 p.m. ET


Official Vatican Translation: "The faithful who are legitimately impeded can obtain the plenary Indulgence if, complying with the usual spiritual, sacramental and prayer conditions, with the purpose of filial submission to the Roman Pontiff, they participate spiritually in the sacred functions on the appointed days, provided they follow these same rites and pious exercises as they take place via television or radio, or, always with appropriate devotion, by the new means of social communication."

The Vatican has announced that those Catholics who follow the events of World Youth Day via social media will be granted the same indulgence -- and time off purgatory -- as those who attend the event in person.

The Holy See released a decree last week confirming that Pope Francis will bestow the plenary indulgence during the July 22-29 event in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. "The young people and the faithful who are adequately prepared will obtain the Plenary Indulgence, once a day and under the usual conditions (sacramental Confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer in accordance with the intentions of the Holy Father), applicable also to the souls of deceased faithful," the decree states. It also adds that those unable to attend World Youth Day in person can receive it "under the usual spiritual, sacramental and prayer conditions, in a spirit of filial submission to the Roman Pontiff... in the sacred functions on the days indicated, following the same rites and spiritual exercises as they occur via television or radio or, with due devotion, via the new means of social communication."

"Get it out of your heads straight away that this is in any way mechanical, that you just need to click on the internet in a few days' time to get a plenary indulgence," Mgr Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. "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 [or] follow the Pope on your iPad. 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."

The Vatican has made it very easy for Catholics to follow the Pope and the activities of World Youth Day, from streaming video and blogs on, the Holy See's social network project...

To an app for Android and iOS...

A Pinterest account...

A "social diary" where tweets and images from the faithful are featured.

And, of course, Pope Francis's Twitter account @Pontifex.

The Vatican is even asking Catholics worldwide to upload videos of themselves participating in World Youth Day to Pope2You in order to create "the first social movie."

View this video on YouTube

To obtain an indulgence, Fr Paolo Padrini, one of the Vatican's top digital communications consultants, explains, "Your click [must] come from the heart."

"Imagine your computer is a well-laden table where you can find tweets from Pope Francis, videos on YouTube, clips on and Facebook postings from your friend in Brazil. That is the dinner that will nourish your spirit. Sharing, acting in unison, despite the obstacle of distance. But it will still be real participation and that is why you will obtain the indulgence. Above all because your click will have come from the heart".

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