Latin America & Caribbean

Pope Francis promises indulgence to Rio youth pilgrims

Catholics carry the World Youth Day cross in Niterol, near Rio de Janeiro (19 May 2013)
Image caption Thousands greeted the World Youth Day cross when it arrived in Brazil in May

Pilgrims attending a Roman Catholic youth festival with Pope Francis in Brazil later this month can be forgiven their sins, the Vatican says.

Those wishing to benefit from the "indulgence" could simply follow the papal visit on TV or radio if they show penitence and contrition, it adds.

The festival in Brazil, from 23 to 28 July, will be Pope Francis's first major foreign trip.

Brazil has the world's largest Roman Catholic population.

A similar pardon was granted by his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, on the previous World Youth Day festival, in Madrid two years ago.

'Ancient tradition'

The Sacred Apostolic Penitentiary, the Vatican body dealing with forgiveness of sins, said that festival-goers would first have to confess, go to mass and be "truly penitent and contrite" in order to benefit from the indulgence.

It would also apply to those following "rites and pious exercises" on television, radio and social media as long as prayers were practised with "requisite devotion", the Vatican said.

Image caption Brazil is home to the largest Catholic community in the world

It is an ancient tradition in the Catholic Church to grant indulgences, the BBC's David Willey reports from Rome.

Traditionally, they have guaranteed pilgrims time off from purgatory under certain conditions.

And it was the sale of papal indulgences that infuriated those rebelling against some Church practices at the time of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th Century, our correspondent says.

In Brazil, considered the world's largest Roman Catholic country, the Church has been losing ground to evangelical sects in recent decades.

However, hundreds of thousands of young people are expected in Rio de Janeiro to meet Pope Francis, who arrives in Brazil on 22 July.

During his stay, expected to last a week, the Pope is expected to celebrate Mass on Rio's famous Copacabana beach.

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