What would Jesus do? Pope's delight as Church follows Pokémon's example
A mobile phone game similar to the hit 'Pokémon Go' is encouraging young Catholics to go to church.
The game, Follow JC Go!, has been commended by Pope Francis according to the founders, and sees players search for religious figures and visit churches.
The religious game follows similar features to 'Pokémon Go'. Players explore the real world in order to look for collectible prizes, but instead of hunting Pokémon monsters such as Pikachu, they are rewarded by adding saints to their team.
According to Catholic newspaper 'Crux', Pope Francis has given the app his blessing. "You know Francis is not a very technological person, but he was in awe," said to Ricardo Grzona, executive director of Foundation Ramon Pane, which developed the game. "He understood the idea, what we were trying to do: combine technology with evangelisation."
For now, the app is only available in Spanish, having been developed by an Argentinian team. Players can navigate a city-like map which will offer prompts with biblical explanations and videos. The app has been prepared ahead of World Youth Day 2019 in Panama.
"Everything today, language and relations, among young people, go through smartphones," Mr Grzona said.
"We wanted to be there and propose to them an educational video game, that is religious and interactive, and with which they can form evangelisation teams."
Pope Francis has emerged with unlikely tech credentials. His Twitter account boasts 7.2 million followers and he has called the internet a "gift from God".
However, he has also warned against overreach of technology.
"It's important that media never become a threat to the real web of flesh and blood relationships by imprisoning us in a virtual reality," the Pope told Catholics in Ireland earlier this year.
The app's team has reportedly spent 32,000 hours working on it, according to 'Crux'. It has been funded with $500,000 (€439,000) of sponsorship and donations.