No, Pope Francis Isn't Offering Indulgences for Twitter Followers

The Internet went into a mild tizzy this week when the Guardian reported the Vatican was offering to get people out of purgatory sooner if they would just follow Pope Francis on Twitter. The Guadian's face-palm-worthy headline "Vatican offers 'time off purgatory' to followers of Pope Francis tweets" seemed like a major step backward for a Pope who has been so revolutionary. Other outlets like Slate and Huffington Post readily jumped on the dog pile—all, evidently, without having read the actual statement from the Vatican.

What the Vatican actually offered was plenary indulgence for people who make certain pilgrimages—in this instance, World Youth Day in Brazil. Recognizing that not everyone has the ability to do so in person, they made concessions for people who followed along with the proceedings in whatever fashion they could, including those who take part "with due devotion, via the new means of social communication.” The Guardian found a "source" at the Vatican who said that included Twitter. In essence, the Pope was giving an assurance that time and financial constraints needn't be an obstacle for God's blessing.

Of course, most evangelicals take issue with the idea of purgatory. But they should also take issue with media sources who twist an ancient and complex theology into a single, attention-grabbing headline ...

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