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The Pope and the mouse

For someone who prefers to write his speeches by hand, the comments by Pope Benedict that Facebook friends are no substitute for real friends, come as a surprise.

In another age the Vatican merely had this life and the next to contend with. In the internet age it must also grapple with "virtual life" and the parallel universe of the cyber community.

The Pontiff may be 83, but he will have struck a chord with many parents by cautioning that "virtual contact cannot and must not take the place of direct human contact". His advice that always being available online while being "less present to those whom we encounter in our everyday life", also resonates with anyone whom has ever dared to come between a child and their PlayStation.

The Pope's call for a serious reflection on the significance of communication in the digital age, should be heeded.

To some the internet represents an electronic tower of Babel where one tongue is used by all, but mastered by none; nonetheless it is the wonder of our age. His challenge to be authentic and faithful while engaging with it, is worth remembering when values are only as constant as the click of a mouse.

For an organisation that still uses the burning of straw to signal the election of its leader, the Vatican statement marks a welcome engagement with a new and often confusing domain.