VATICAN CITY — After a frenzy of recent publicity surrounding a Vatican decree that appeared to offer indulgences to Catholics for following Pope Francis’s Twitter account, Vatican officials today clarified that the indulgences would not be given to Tweet followers, but rather to those who actively ‘Like’ the Tweets on Facebook.
“Anybody can follow His Holiness on Twitter without actually reading His Tweets,” explained Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, the head of the pontifical council for social communication. “To earn an indulgence, a member of the Faithful needs to prove they are actively engaged by spreading The Holy Tweets throughout cyberspace, be it via retweeting, a Facebook Like, or posting it on Reddit. Basically anything except Stumble Upon, which is the Devil’s work.”
Historically, indulgences were granted to sinners who, after confessing their sins, went out into the world and performed charitable deeds. The indulgences could then be used in the afterlife to reduce the amount of time one must stay in purgatory. More recently, they’ve become a popular trading commodity in online multiplayer RPGs.
The initial announcement was seen by some as a blatant attempt to attract more Twitter followers for the pontiff, whose nine different accounts – each in a different language – are currently subscribed to by more than seven million people in total. Archbishop Celli quickly brushed away the accusation. “While following His Holiness on Twitter at @Pontifex can only bring one closer to the Almighty, it is simply another way for the faithful to hear The Word,” he said. “The number of souls who follow Him is of no matter, at least not until we approach Lady Gaga numbers, at which time we’ll turn up the heat.”
Father Steven Avella, papal expert and professor of religious history at Marquette University, was not surprised at the Vatican’s elaboration on their social media indulgence policy. “Pope Francis has really made reaching out through social media a priority for The Church,” he said. “When I first heard about the indulgence-for-Twitter-following ploy, it rang hollow to me, because this pope is a visual pope. I simply couldn’t imagine His Holiness engaging in anything online that didn’t include Pinterest or Instagram.”
Archbishop Celli promised that tweets were just the beginning for Pope Francis. “His Holiness will be holding a flashmob-style Mass somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere next month,” he teased. “He hasn’t even told us where or when, but He’ll leak the details via a special Skype town hall at some point in the future, the time and His Skype handle to be announced via his Twitter account when you least expect it. Follow him at @Pontifex today or you’ll miss out!”