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Pope offers indulgences for online World Youth Day participation

VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican is offering indulgences for Facebook fans, Twitter lovers and other "virtual" participants of the upcoming World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro -- but there's a hitch.

The Holy See's social media guru, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, warned Friday that merely checking the pope's Twitter feed won't result in an indulgence, the ancient church tradition related to the forgiveness of sins that roughly amounts to a "get out of Purgatory free" card.

Rather, Celli told The Associated Press, a Catholic seeking an indulgence for participating in Rio -- either physically or virtually -- must truly be contrite and have a moment of deepening faith.

"When we are touching spirituality, the problem resides not in what I do but what is in my heart," Celli said. "It's not just watching TV and the ceremonies of the Holy Father that I get the indulgence, or because I'm going to Rio, or because I'm reading a tweet of the Holy Father. That's not the forgiveness of sins."

According to church teaching, Catholics who confess their sins are forgiven and therefore released from the eternal or spiritual punishment of damnation. An indulgence is designed to remove the "temporal" punishment of sin that may remain -- the consequence of the wrongdoing that might have disrupted the sinner's relationships with others.

-- AP

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