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Can religion and technology mix? The matter was recently debated worldwide as Italian Catholic bishops urged parishioners to give up high-tech conveniences for Lent, while some church goers considered abstaining from social networking sites such as Facebook.
"It is a small way to remember the importance of concrete and not virtual relationships," read a statement from the Modena diocese in Italy, which called for people to give up text messaging every Friday during Lent.
Meanwhile, other members of the Catholic Church were lauding the benefits of using technology for evangelism. The Vatican actually launched a YouTube channel in January. Father Jay Finelli, a pastor in Rhode Island, utilizes his own web site, a Facebook page with more than 1,000 friends, as well as podcasts in his ministry.
"This is the means. This is the way to reach these kids," he said in a March 12 article posted on The Rhode Island Catholic website. "Through my podcast I reach 1,500 to 2,000 people each week. That's more than my parish. Through this, I've seen people return to the Church. I've seen people who are not Catholic come in to the Church."
Lent ran from Feb. 25 to April 11. The traditional practice is for Catholics to give up a worldly pleasure, to better understand the 40 days that Jesus fasted in the desert, according to a March 6 Globe and Mail article.
The idea of abstaining from technology gives a modern-day spin to the practice. Father James Heft, president of the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies, said when he was growing up in the 1950s his family gave up television and popcorn.
In Italy, the Turin diocese has asked its followers to abstain from watching television during Lent. Other dioceses have made such suggestions as not using cars, computers or iPods, according to The Rhode Island Catholic story.
Calgary high school teacher Joshua Prowse vowed to give up Facebook for Lent. After 10 days, he was already struggling, according to the Globe and Mail story.
"I have that smoker's moment, when I get twitchy. It's been difficult."
Texas Tech University student Marianne Condit traditionally has given up a food for Lent. This year she opted to dispense with Facebook because, she said, she realized how much the site wasted her time. She believes it is important not just to give up something but also replace that with something more meaningful.
"It's really about me sacrificing something because Jesus sacrificed for me," she said in a March 25 Fox News website story. "I've seen results. I know my sacrifice isn't worthy, but it's still a good thing."
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