La Divina Commedia di Dante (Dante and the Divine Comedy). Fresco in the nave of the Duomo of Florence, Italy. Photo courtesy Domenico di Michelino [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (http://bit.ly/11h8Es3)

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(RNS) There’s a lot of chatter about the Vatican’s plan to offer indulgences to pilgrims who meet Pope Francis for World Youth Day in Brazil. Like most things involving centuries of hard-fought theology, it’s a little more complicated than you might think.

Especially that whole part about “Cut your time in purgatory by following pope on Twitter.

To many non-Catholics (and more than a few cradle Catholics), the idea of purgatory seems more than a little bizarre. Add on the idea of indulgences — and the complicated and scandalous history that goes with them — and things get even more murky.

Here’s a back-of-the-envelope explainer about purgatory, indulgences and Twitter explained in 140-character bits. Well, OK, five of them:

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