Thou Shalt Not Text
PANAMA. You may already be giving up chocolate, alcohol, or meat for Lent, but the Roman Catholic Church in Italy has come up with an e...
PANAMA. You may already be giving up chocolate, alcohol, or meat for Lent, but the Roman Catholic Church in Italy has come up with an even more challenging act of abstinence: stop all that texting.
The appeal to Italians is not only to stop sending SMS messages but also to foreswear Facebook, computer games and iPhones on Fridays during Lent - and on other days if possible.
The suggestion gives a modern twist to traditional forms of abstinence in the five-week period Christians set aside for fasting and prayer ahead of Easter.
It appears to stem partly from Pope Benedict XVI's recent warning to the young not to substitute "virtual friendship" for real human relationships.
The Pontiff warned on his YouTube site in January that “obsessive” use of mobile 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".
Was he speaking based on personal experience? Perhaps. French President Sarkozy is said to have checked text messages during a personal audience with the Pontiff.
The "stop texting for Lent" campaign began in the dioceses of Modena, Bari and Pesaro, where bishops are urging the faithful to go on a high-tech fast, switching off modern appliances from cars to iPods and abstaining from surfing the Web until Easter.
It has now spread to other parts of Italy.
"It's a small way to remember the importance of concrete and not virtual relationships," the Modena diocese said in a statement. "It's an instrument to remind us that our actions and lifestyles have consequences in distant countries."
The diocese said the "no SMS day" seeks to draw attention to years of conflict in Congo fueled in part by the struggle for control of coltan mines. The mineral is an essential material in cell phones.
The Turin diocese is suggesting the faithful not watch television during Lent. In the northeastern city of Trento, the church has created a "new lifestyles" calendar with proposals for each week of Lent.
Some ideas: Leave cars at home and hop on a bike or a bus; stop throwing chewing gum on the street and start recycling waste; enjoy the silence of a week without the Internet and iPods.