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Friday 22 August 2014

Forget sweets, Church wants you to give up texting for Lent

Richard Owen in Rome

Published 04/03/2009 | 00:00

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Gv up txt 4 Lent.

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That's the message from the Roman Catholic Church who wants its followers to forswear mobile phone text messaging, social networking websites and computer games in the pre-Easter period.

While the Church was unavailable for comment last night -- either by phone or text -- devoted young Catholics in other countries have taken up the call with a vengeance.

Penance

No doubt their assiduous avoidance of texting is based on the belief that a little penance now might enhance one's prospects of becoming truly upwardly mobile when their texting days are over.

Italians, for example, have really taken the call from their Church leaders to heart.

Many Italians traditionally give up meat and desserts or, in extremis, alcohol; but the appeal to give up some of the trappings of the modern world during Lent, including Facebook, iPhones and computer games, on Fridays -- and on other days if possible -- is unprecedented.

The call appears to stem partly from Pope Benedict XVI's recent warning to the young not to substitute "virtual friendship" for real human relationships.

On the pontiff's YouTube site he warned in January that "obsessive" use of phones or computers "may isolate individuals from real social interaction while also disrupting the patterns of rest, silence and reflection that are necessary for healthy human development".

Pope Benedict has personal experience of the distractions of obsessive texting. President Sarkozy of France came in for withering criticism for checking his mobile for text messages during a personal audience with the pontiff.

Campaign

The "stop texting for Lent" campaign began in the dioceses of Modena, Bari and Pesaro but has now spread to other parts of Italy. The church authorities at Rivoli, near Turin, are going one step further and asking parishioners to switch off their television sets and drape them with black cloth until Easter.

Theologian Gianni Gennari described the idea as ridiculous, adding: "You might as well launch a campaign to turn off the electric light and stay in the dark.

"Priests would do better to ask the faithful to forgo a cup of coffee and donate the money saved to the poor."

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