(Photo: REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi)
Rio de Janeiro in Brazil is getting ready to host the Roman Catholic Church's World Youth Day, which begins on July 23 and is expected to attract 2.5 million people. Pope Francis has, meanwhile, promised indulgences to Twitter followers for that day.
"I joyfully look forward to next July in Rio de Janeiro! I will see you in that great city in Brazil! Prepare well, prepare spiritually above all – in your communities, so that our gathering in Rio may be a sign of faith for the whole world," the Vatican leader said in March of the upcoming trip.
The event will also mark Pope Francis' first international trip, as he is set to visit his home continent and participate in a number of events. The Vatican noted that the location for this year's celebrations was chosen by his predecessor Benedict XVI.
"Pope Francis has maintained the same days – that is, the trip was expected to take place from 22 to 29 July even before the change of pontificate – but more events have been planned for this period, especially the pilgrimage to Aparecida which will occupy a day that had in the previous draft programme been intended as a day of rest," said Federico Lombardi, the director of the Holy See Press Office.
The Vatican noted that the pontiff is going to leave his bulletproof popemobile behind and greet supporters from an open-topped car during the major youth festival, which was started by Pope John Paul II in 1985.
For security reasons, previous popes had often chosen the bulletproof vehicles when taking trips outside the Vatican.
Francis has also announced that he plans to grant plenary indulgences, which the Catholic tradition defines as full or partial remission of temporal punishment for sins. The pontiff will offer indulgences to people who follow his Twitter account @Pontifex during World Youth Day, watch broadcasts of the celebration or engage in other spiritual actions.
"The faithful who on account of a legitimate impediment cannot attend the aforementioned celebrations may obtain Plenary Indulgence under the usual spiritual, sacramental and prayer conditions, in a spirit of filial submission to the Roman Pontiff, by participation in the sacred functions on the days indicated, following the same rites and spiritual exercises as they occur via television or radio or, with due devotion, via the new means of social communication," a Vatican decree stated.