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Last Updated: Friday, 29 October, 2004, 10:20 GMT 11:20 UK
Church fears rosary fashion craze
David Beckham's Vanity Fair front cover
David Beckham modelled a rosary for Vanity Fair magazine
A fashion craze for rosary beads has been criticised by the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales.

After pop star Britney Spears and England footballer David Beckham were both recently photographed wearing them, sales are booming across the UK.

So much so that the Catholic Church fears they are being trivialised and has issued a special leaflet that gives guidance on their use as prayer aids.

Yet one jeweller said they were now more and more seen as fashion items.

Prayer counters

Father Allen Morris, secretary of the Catholic Church's department for Christian life and worship, said that while rosary beads "look very nice...it is a great pity if they are only being used as a decoration and not for devotional purposes".

They are definitely very fashionable at the moment, and seen as a nice piece of jewellery, not just a religious item
Jeweller Aida Norman

He added that while such celebrities wearing rosary beads were "not doing wicked things and leading us astray, I am sorry that people are wearing them as fashion accessories and are not mindful of their religious significance".

The beads are traditionally used by Roman Catholics to count off prayers.

At jewellery store Aida in Ealing, London, owner Aida Norman said there had definitely been a surge in rosary bead sales over the last year.

Pretty designs

"They are definitely very fashionable at the moment, and seen as a nice piece of jewellery, not just a religious item," she said.

"I have always sold a great many of them around traditional confirmation time, such as May and June, but now they are selling very quickly throughout the year."

In past years the Roman Catholic Church has complained about celebrities such as Madonna, who is a lapsed Catholic, wearing crucifixes.

Father Morris noted that the rosary also bears a crucifix.

"It is a very odd thing to wear as a piece of decoration - the cross is an instrument of torture," he said.

"Why not wear an electric chair?"

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