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Follow the Pope on Twitter, reduce your time in Purgatory says Vatican

Categories: World

 Pope Francis has more than 2.6 million followers on Twitter. (Getty Images)

Vatican officials are putting a new twist on a very old custom next week by offering up "indulgences" - essentially credits for less time in purgatory -- to those who follow the pope on Twitter.

Indulgences are typically granted by church officials to Catholics who carry out tasks demonstrating an extraordinary amount of faith, like climbing the Sacred Steps in Rome.

Believers are said to earn seven extra years off purgatory for this act, shortening the time they must wait before entering heaven.

Senior Vatican officals say that attending certain events, like the upcoming Catholic World Youth Day in Brazil, can also earn indulgences - and for the first time ever, so can following the week's events live via Twitter.

"What really counts is that the tweets the Pope sends from Brazil or the photos of the Catholic World Youth Day that go up on Pinterest produce authentic spiritual fruit in the hearts of everyone," said Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

Vatican officials recognize that not all of the world's Catholics will have an opportunity to fly to Brazil for July 22, when World Youth Day begans, and thus have extended the indulgence to those "following the rites and pious exercises" on television, radio, or through social media.

But it's not as easy clicking "follow" on the massively popular @Pontifex account that represents Pope Francis.

"You must be following the events live. It is not as if you can get an indulgence by chatting on the internet," said another source at the Vatican's sacred apostolic penitentiary, according to the Guardian.

In its decree making this indulgence official, the penitentiary said that getting one would hinge on the beneficiary being "truly penitent and contrite".

What are your thoughts on social media and religion? Do you or anyone you know use new communication tools as part of your spiritual practice? Share your stories below.

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