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The Vatican Connects to the Digital Age… and Urges Text Abstinence for Lent

Posted by dorian on April 8, 2009


Pope Benedict XVI

Pope blacks out the media this Lent

Are Facebookers as sinful as gluttons? The Catholic Church says they are this Lent, and has urged its flock to abstain from all digital diversions, marking the world’s first ‘low-tech Lent’ – but how realistic is it?tjones1

Pope Benedict XVI has been taking leaps and bounds to connect with what he calls the ‘digital generation’. In early 2009, the Vatican launched its own channel on the popular Internet platform, YouTube, where the faithful can keep abreast of news from the Vatican, and see many of the Pope’s public addresses.

The Vatican understands the limitless potential of the digital world’s new and emerging technologies. Its new channel is an attempt to bring youth, and technophiles in general, closer to the teachings of the Catholic Church, through a new digital media that they know and understand.

On a YouTube video dated January 25, the Pope asserted that “the Internet can promote the search for the truth.” At the same time, the Pope also understands that like all things in the contemporary era, the digital revolution also has its cons.

Just days after his January 25 address, the pontiff warned his flock that the “obsessive” use of digital technologies, like mobile phones and computers, “may isolate individuals from real social interaction while also disrupting the patterns of rest, silence, and reflection that are necessary for human development.”

Although the pontiff has embraced the new medias, he also wants Catholics to reflect on their frequently excessive high-tech habits and reclaim a more direct and personal relationship with others and the world, in general. So this Lent, the Pope has positioned all excessive behaviors on the same level: by urging Catholics to renounce excessive eating and drinking, he is also asking them to curb digital self-indulgence and embark on a high-tech fast—especially on Fridays.

For the Pope, this means giving up text messaging, logging off of Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, and dropping the joystick in order to engage in more concrete, human experiences during Lent. The ‘low-tech’ initiative has even touched the small screen: a parish church near the northern Italian city of Turin is telling parishioners to turn off their TVs and drape them in a black sheet until Good Friday.

While the Pope’s proposed black out on high-tech may just be what humanity needs in order to be efficient and continue to prosper in such a digitally advanced society, how realistic is it? Will businessmen truly be able to drop their Blackberries on Fridays, and will members of the young, digital generations be able to abstain from Facebook and sending text messages to their friends? According to statistics, Italians, young and old, text message the most compared to their European counterparts, with each one sending some 50 text messages a month.

A geneticist at the Vatican, Bruno Dallapiccola, remains skeptical. “Very few youths follow suggestions by the clergy, and even a smaller number will renounce communicating via text message. Do we really believe that young people will not contact their friends because bishops have asked them to?” Dallapiccola asks.

Giani Gennari, a theologian and journalist for the Catholic newspaper Avvenire, agrees: “Good Friday marks the pain of Christ, and to suggest a ban on texting as a way of commemorating it is a ridiculous idea; it would be better if the parishes personalize abstinence, like, for example, by asking parishioners to give a coffee each day and donate that money to the money to the poor”.

Brenda Dionisi for RT 12 March, 2009, 12:58





One Response to “The Vatican Connects to the Digital Age… and Urges Text Abstinence for Lent”

  1. […] Original post by dorian9 […]


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