Using social media to participate in faraway religious gatherings is now officially grounds for the granting of “indulgences”, or time off a purgatory sentence given for confessed or forgiven sins. The idea, proposed by the Pope, was approved by the Sacred Apostolic Penitentiary, one of three tribunals of the Roman Curia that administers church business. “The little-noticed decree took on new meaning this week as Vatican officials prepared for World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, a Catholic festival to which the pope will travel, leading the July 23-28 series of sermons, prayers and celebrations.”
What’s the Big Idea?
The decision represents the Church’s ongoing attempt to reconcile new technologies with its core value system. And while clicking a link may seem easy, “you can’t obtain indulgences like getting a coffee from a vending machine,” said Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, head of the pontifical council for social communication. A computer full of digital religion must serve to genuinely nourish the spirit. Sharing, acting in unison, despite the obstacle of distance constitutes real participation and that is why the Church will grant indulgences. “Above all because your click will have come from the heart.”