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Call to give up texting for Lent

Italian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone holds his mobile phone (2005)
Many Italian clerics have given their backing to Monsignor Cocchi's appeal

The archbishop of the Italian city of Modena wants young Catholics to give up text messaging, social networking websites and computer games for Lent.

Monsignor Benito Cocchi said foregoing the activities would help them "cleanse themselves from the virtual world and get back into touch with themselves",

The average Italian sends 50 texts a month from their mobiles, the second highest rate in Europe, behind the UK.

Other Italian bishops have given their backing to the appeal.

In Trento, Archbishop Luigi Bressan has meanwhile suggested people use Lent to embrace recycling. Venice's bishop has said worshippers might want to give up mineral water and drink only tap water.

Father Gianni Fazzini of the Venice diocese told the newspaper, La Repubblica: "If people renounce things individually, it can produce a collective change.

"It's a reaction to the economic crisis: in changing our consumer habits we can also meet our responsibility as Christians to safeguard God's Creation," he added.

Pope Benedict XVI warned in January that people who spent too much time in front of their computers risked isolation and depression.

Lent, which for most Christian congregations runs from Ash Wednesday to Easter, commemorates the 40 days that Jesus is said to have spent fasting in the desert and rejecting the temptations of Satan before beginning his ministry.

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