According to a new Vatican decree, issued last month but reportedjustabouteverywhere this week, Pope Francis will be granting indulgences -- or time off terms in purgatory -- to Catholics who closely follow his Twitter or other social media accounts during the World Youth Day event in Rio de Janeiro next week.
Mac pencil stripdown.
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The latest tweets from @Pontifex. Pontifex - twitter, Vatican City. 12,304 likes 384 talking about this. This page displays the tweets that Pope Francis sends out from @Pontifex. It is run semi-automated by a Catholic religious.
The pardons are typically proferred to sinners who, after confession, go out into the world and perform counter-balancing faithful or charitable deeds. The theological concept was sullied, though, in medieval times, when rogue clerics and corrupt popes promised eternal salvation to those who funded luxurious building projects.
The announcement could be interpreted, on its face, as a vain attempt to inflate the Vatican's social media numbers. However, while the pontiff (@Pontifex) hasn't quite catapulted to Lady Gaga levels of Twitter popularity, he doesn't really need muchassistance. His nine different accounts -- each in a different language -- command more than seven million followers.
Since he took office in March, Francis's mien and conduct seem to counter any notion that he's aiming for celebrity. According to Father Steven Avella, a papal expert and professor of religious history at Marquette University, Pope Francis has shied away from the cult of personality that other Popes have indulged in. 'It sure is a temptation,' he wrote The Atlantic in an email. 'But .. Francesco has tried to tamp this sort of thing down.'
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Modesty and humility, in fact, seem to be the defining characteristics of his papacy. He ditched the ostentatious luxury vehicles -- a custom Renault, BMWX5, and a Mercedes -- of his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI and opted for a discreet Ford Focus. He's also skipping out on summer down time at the posh papal villa Castel Gandolfo, preferringto remain in his modest Vatican guesthouse (which he selected as an alternative to the papal residence in the Apostolic Palace). He has even refused the standard sartorial splendor, shunning both the fancy Pope cape and shoes. When Francis recently learned that a statue in his likeness had been installed near the Cathedral in BuenosAires, he phoned a priest there and ordered it immediately removed.
Still, the decision to grant indulgences over the Internet strikes both Avella and Rev. John O'Malley, S.J., an internationally acclaimed scholar on the Vatican and professor at Georgetown University, as peculiar. 'This Twitter stuff, I have to admit, all sounds very strange to me,' O'Malley wrote in an email. He also stressed that the principle of papal infallibility does not cover such a pronouncement. 'The pope is not infallible in everything he says or does but only in a VERY restricted area and under VERY specific circumstances,' he wrote. 'The Twitter indulgences does not fulfill those criteria in even the slightest way.' The scholars also seemed to doubt whether, in a maze of Vatican bureaucracy, the directive was initiated or even directly authorized by the Pope himself. Avella wrote:
I doubt whether Papa Francesco knows about this nonsense..and I would bet that if he does, he'll poo-poo it as the action of some over-zealous Vatican bureaucrat..even Benedict would find indulgenced tweets a bit too much. Francesco does not like this 'quantified' grace business or the idea that saying X number of prayers gets you certain results.
Francis does not actually type out his Twitter dispatches -- but he does reportedly 'approve' them -- so it's not that far-fetched of a theory. The Vatican press office has not responded to an inquiry about whether he signed off.
Whoever the idea originated with, the decree seems well-intentioned enough. It simply offers the same spiritual opportunities to those who, for legitimate reasons, cannot attend the event (and agree to earnestly and seriously participate over the Internet) as it does to those who can afford the journey. It reads:
The message of prayer and faith must remain the same, it seems to say, it's just accomplished through a different medium -- the Internet. Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, the head of the pontifical council for social communication, clarified the policy further in an interview with the Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera. 'You don't get the indulgence the way you get a coffee from a vending machine. There's no counter handing out certificates,' he said. 'What really matters is that the Pope's tweets from Brazil, or the photos of World Youth Day that will be posted on Pinterest, should bear authentic spiritual fruit in the hearts of each one of us.'
Father Paolo Padrini, an expert on the Church's digital campaigns who is known as the iPriest, told the newspaper that a participant had to fashion a sort of technological sacred space. 'Imagine your computer is a well-laden table where you can find tweets from Pope Francis, videos on YouTube, clips on Corriere.it and Facebook postings from your friend in Brazil,' he said. 'That is the dinner that will nourish your spirit.'
Perhaps, for some, it's difficult to fathom. Can a person really have some sort of deep spiritual experience on the same machine that's used for work,pleasure, and everything in between? The Vatican's point, though, seems to focus on the discipline of piety, not on the milieu in which it's practiced. In an email, Michelle Molina, an assistant professor of Catholic Studies at Northwestern University who specializes in Jesuit spirituality, argued, convincingly, that when it comes to the transformative experience of religion, the medium is irrelevant:
Pope Francis Twitter 2020
The Church has been struggling with a series of scandals over the past few years, and it's seen a decline in membership worldwide. Perhaps allowing Catholics to engage digitally will help grow the ranks of the faithful.© Provided by INSIDER People are editing a photo of Pope Francis to make it appear as if he's holding objects or characters like the Child, better known as Baby Yoda. Lucasfilm/Buda Mendes/Getty Images
- A meme format featuring Pope Francis exploded on Twitter over the weekend, using the platform's four-panel image formatting to picture the Pope holding various objects.
- The image was originally taken in Brazil in 2013, and has been an inspiration for meme formats since.
- Some memes show the Pope holding objects like cosmetics, while others remix the format to incorporate other popular memes.
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Pope Francis was all over Twitter this weekend. A four-panel meme that shows him holding up various objects ranging from Baby Yoda from 'The Mandalorian' to Glossier blush saw an uptick in popularity starting on October 16.
As Mashable's Amanda Yeo reported, the meme isn't actually new — rather, this new wave on Twitter is a resurgence that builds upon former meme formats featuring this particular photo of the Pope.
The original photo was taken in Brazil in 2013 during a celebration of Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady Aparecida, and is credited to photographer Buda Mendes and Getty Images. In the picture, he's holding a wafer of sacramental bread as part of Holy Communion.
In edits on Twitter, he could just as easily be holding one of the most popular icons of the past year.
—President Warren G Haunting (@PopeAwesomeXIII) October 16, 2020
Know Your Meme reports that variations of the image circulated on platforms like Tumblr in the mid-2010s, primarily replacing the communion wafer with CDs. There's also the Instagram account @pope_holding_your_fav_album, which edits various album covers into his outstretched hands and appears to have posted in September 2019.
Now, the meme has been adjusted to fit into Twitter's four-panel image format, with Know Your Meme identifying user @SUEHULK as one of the earliest users to post the meme format on Twitter as part of the current wave.
Typically, Pope Francis himself occupies the bottom left panel as well as both right panels, with an object of choice filling in the top-left frame.
—Harry Hill (@veryharryhill) October 16, 2020
—Amy Zimmer (@oneamyzimmer) October 16, 2020
Many iterations of the meme began with venerated objects — for some, that meant sworn-by cosmetic products; for others, it meant classic video game console controllers or paper fortune tellers.
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—N64 Today (@N64Today) October 17, 2020
—molly but spooky (@505mol) October 18, 2020
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Some of the memes also included fictional or abstract objects, with many people invoking recognizable symbols like a Chaos Emerald from the Sonic: The Hedgehog franchise, a Shine Sprite from 'Super Mario Sunshine,'and Yu Gi Oh cards.
—Michal 🎃 (@Miexriir) October 16, 2020
—Maryo (@MaryoZimmerman) October 17, 2020
—andrea (@ndruja) October 17, 2020
One particularly viral iteration of the meme that amassed over 500,000 likes made it appear as if Pope Francis was part of a recognizable sequence from 'Spider-Man' (2002).
—Willem Da Fiend 👹 (@willsmithx4) October 16, 2020
Many iterations of the meme veered into the abstract, with people remixing the format of the meme itself. In doing so, they adapted it to include other popular memes like the iconic 'monkey haircut' image, or used it to reference mythical happenings like the birth of Athena from Zeus' skull.
—dream song 4 (@chickenpaprika) October 16, 2020
—ali 🕛 (@VlBRATORBIT) October 18, 2020
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Of course, not everyone was thrilled about the Pope meme — Martin Luther, the German theologist who's best known for rallying against the Roman Catholic Church's system of indulgences and kick-starting the Reformation, certainly wouldn't be.
—muscle skoals (@MuscleSkoals) October 17, 2020
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