The Vatican has given one of Catholicism's oldest and most controversial traditions -- that of indulgences -- a 21st-century twist, announcing earlier this month that Pope Francis will grant the plenary indulgence to all who participate in World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro.
In Catholic teaching, a plenary indulgence wipes out the full punishment due to god for sins already committed. All those scary black marks after a person's name are erased -- bye-bye, purgatory!
Unable to travel to the festivities in Argentina? Don't worry, you won't have to miss out on the forgiveness fun. The Vatican decree states:
"[The] faithful who on account of a legitimate impediment cannot attend... may obtain Plenary Indulgence under the usual spiritual, sacramental and prayer conditions, in a spirit of filial submission to the Roman Pontiff, by participation 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."
According to a Vatican source who spoke to The Guardian, "the new means of social communication" includes Twitter. "But you must be following the events live," the source clarified. "It is not as if you can get an indulgence by chatting on the internet." (Well thank goodness that's cleared up!)
In case you're wondering, the Pope's Twitter handle is @pontifex and World Youth Day 2013 starts today. And yes, if the whole indulgence thing sounds familiar, it's because objections over indulgences are what led a German monk by the name of Martin Luther to write his Ninety-Five Theses, sparking the Protestant Reformation in the process.