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Thou Shalt Not Text Until Easter, Italians Told

Chrch sez stop txtn 4 lent.

Or, put another way, the Italian branch of the Roman Catholic Church wants its followers to forswear text messaging, social-networking Web sites and computer games in the run-up to Easter.

While many Italians traditionally give up fatty foods or, in extremis, alcohol, the appeal to go without some of the trappings of the modern world, including Facebook, iPhones and computer games, on Fridays — and on other days if possible — is unprecedented.

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."

Pope Benedict also has personal experience of the distractions of obsessive texting. President Sarkozy of France, a renowned technophile, came in for withering criticism for checking his mobile phone for text messages during a personal audience with the Pontiff.

The "stop texting for Lent" campaign began in the dioceses of Modena, Bari and Pesaro but has now spread to other parts of Italy.

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