A non-catholic friend recently asked me about this article:
Vatican: Get time off in purgatory by following Pope on Twitter he wanted to know if it was real or if it was “fake news.” Many times when the Catholic faith is discussed in the public sphere, the truth of the teaching or the intent of the action is lost due to ignorance, or misunderstanding, or bias. I believe the article he sent me is a mixture of ignorance and misunderstanding. I am not going to get into the details and (well-established) theology of indulgences but it is suffice to say the following:
- We believe that even though we are forgiven our sins through confession, our souls still are not perfect to enter into Heaven. (That is reason why we believe in purgatory, that it is a location that perfects our souls, through the healing of the fires of the Holy Spirit, so that our perfected souls devoid of all sins and attachments may enter into Heaven.)
- Sanctification of our souls comes from the grace of God and through our cooperation with him in his plan to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth.
- Through our cooperation with him in that plan, through our actions of prayer, pilgrimage, and other apostolic works, our souls are sanctified and perfected some here on Earth. This cuts down the time we have to spend in purgatory.
One of those indulgences is given for attending a pilgrimage and in this case World Youth Day (WYD), which is an event that occurs every 3-4 years. Hundreds of Thousands of young adults come together to pray and worship our God for a week. The Pope and the Bishops of the world come together with the people and as I have been told is a life changing moment that brings many into conversion.
However, the trips are expensive and accommodations are expensive. For our Diocese it cost appox $4,000 to attend the last WYD in Poland. The Pope, who is a big defender of the poor, wanted to extend the WYD indulgence to those that couldn’t afford the trip. So he stated that all those that fully participated in the pilgrimage through social media (Facebook, Twitter, and the WYD website) could also receive the indulgence. It wasn’t for simply following him on Twitter. The person would have to actively set aside time throughout each of the days of WYD to participate as if he was in Poland. Some parishes held events at the church, streaming the talks of lay evangelists, the sermons of the bishops, and the Masses of the Pope. Those fully participating spent 8-10 hours a day in prayer and fellowship with fellow Catholics.
So the indulgence was for those that fully took on the spirit of a pilgrim spending their days in prayer and worship. Not for those that simply followed the Pope and read a couple of tweets.