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Roman Catholic bishops to faithful: Give up cell phone and Internet during Lent

Concerned that Christians are not entering the Lenten season (which began last week on Ash Wednesday) with the proper spirit, some clergy are calling on their flock to nix text messaging for the next six Fridays leading up to Easter on April 12. Christians are annually asked to refrain from eating meat on Fridays and to pray more regularly during Lent, but the church has apparently gotten hip to the hold that technology has on its brethren. The diocese of Modena-Nonantola in Italy in particular is calling for text-messaging-free Fridays as a way for the faithful to at least temporarily rid themselves  of reminders of "material wealth," but the church is also calling for such digital abstinence in the name of human rights.

The diocese, in a statement on its Web site (translated from Italian to English using Google's translation software) notes that 80 percent of the mineral coltan—a metallic ore used to make used in consumer electronics products such as cell phones, DVD players, and computers—comes from Kivu, the war-ravaged eastern region of the Congo, where "civil war has caused more than 4 million deaths in the last ten [sic] years." The diocese says that the extraction and trade of coltan by Western industry has helped fuel warfare in this region of Africa (a statement, they say, backed by a 2003 United Nations report).

In Turin, Italy, the diocese is calling on  followers to avoid television during Lent, the Associated Press reports. Meanwhile, in the northeastern city of Trento, the church has created a "new lifestyles" calendar with proposals for each week of Lent, some of which include biking rather than driving to work, refraining from throwing chewing gum on the streets, and doing without the Internet and iPods.

So far, no one is directly calling for a Lenten moratorium on Facebook or MySpace, two sites that Pope Benedict XVI has praised for "forging friendships and understanding," according to the Associated Press.

Image ©iStockphoto.com/ Christine Kublanski

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