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Thursday, 28 March, 2002, 10:21 GMT
Church grapples with hi-tech dilemma
Catholic priests
Church leaders must assess how to utilise technology
As one archbishop calls for Good Friday to be an SMS-free day, BBC News Online's Jane Wakefield looks at the relationship between the church and technology.

The Archbishop of the Italian city of Salerno, Gerrardo Pierro, is asking his congregation to abstain from text messaging on Good Friday and concentrate on meditation instead.

It could be no easy task as text messaging becomes ever more popular.

In February in the UK alone, 1.2 million text messages were sent according to figures from the Mobile Data Association.

Youngsters are particularly keen, with 91% admitting in a recent survey conducted by mobile phone operator Orange to texting someone in another part of the house rather than speak to them in person.

In the UK city of Manchester, a 24-hour church has recognised the importance of texting to young people and is calling for them to contact the church via text messages if, for example, they are in a club with a friend who has taken too many drugs.

'Opportunities for evangelisation'

As technology becomes ever more prevalent among the young, churches of all denominations are being forced to look at new ways of maintaining and growing its flock.

The Pope
The Pope is to make speech about internet
The Pope himself has recognised the power of the internet and will pontificate on the value of the web in a speech to be made in May.

He sees the net as a new forum for proclaiming the gospel.

"The internet can offer magnificent opportunities for evangelisation if used with competence and a clear awareness of its strengths and weaknesses," the speech reads.

"It is important that the Christian community think of very practical ways of helping those who first make contact through the internet to move from the virtual world of cyberspace to the real world of Christian community," it goes on.

However he also notes that the ephemeral and factual nature of much of the content on the net could also be attacking spirituality in the new millennium.

"The internet offers extensive knowledge, but it does not teach values; and when values are disregarded, our very humanity is demeaned," he said.

Church online

The Church of England has some sympathy with members of the clergy who want to keep holy days technology-free.

"The issue is to do with celebrating the day of rest as a time to set apart for the worship of God and as a day of recuperation for mankind," said a Church of England spokesman.

Like the Catholic Church, it has a pragmatic approach to technology, recognising it can work for good as well as for bad.

"The Church of England has a website and it gets about a quarter of a million hits each week. That shows that people within the church are happy to use technology and find it useful," said the spokesman.

In Spain, one priest has become so fed up with mobile phones ringing during mass that he has installed a jammer in his church in Moraira.

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