Forgive me on TV or online father, for I have sinned
Roman Catholics will now be able to seek forgiveness for their sins from afar next week when the Pope visits Brazil, simply by following the event on social media, the Vatican has decreed.
Sinners will not have to bother with the expense and trouble of travelling to Rio de Janeiro, where the Pope will preside over a series of events under the umbrella of World Youth Day, to obtain the traditional "plenary indulgence".
Instead they will be able to do so by watching the events on their television, computer or mobile telephone, in the latest attempt by the Vatican to embrace technology in order to broaden the appeal of Catholicism.
Forgiveness is more than a mouse-click away, however.
The Sacred Apostolic Penitentiary, a Vatican court for the forgiveness of sins that issued the decree, warned that believers would first have to confess their sins, offer prayers and attend Mass.
They would then have to have the "requisite devotion" in their hearts in order to qualify for an indulgence – an archaic tradition by which punishment for sins is reduced and time in Purgatory shortened.
Opposition to the selling of indulgences by Martin Luther and others helped to drive the Protestant Reformation.
Catholics will be expected to follow closely the "rites and pious exercises" that Pope Francis will lead in Rio "through new social communication channels" such as the Pope's Twitter account.
The Vatican did not stipulate whether that meant stealing a quick glance at events on YouTube or the television, or following them in depth, but Catholics were required to be in a suitably spiritual state of mind as they peruse their PC, tablet or telephone, it said. (© Daily Telegraph. London)