Italians Give Up Txtn 4 Lent

Following Pope Benedict's YouTube warning to his younger followers that "virtual friendship" cannot substitute for real-world connections, and that "obsessive" texting "may isolate individuals from real social interaction while also disrupting the patterns of rest, silence and reflection," a group of Italian Catholics are encouraging their countrymen to give up texting for Lent. The campaign began in the dioceses of Modena, Bari and Pesaro and has spread to other regions of the predominantly Catholic nation. The Trento diocese, sandwiched in the Italian Alps, also urges youngsters to give up computer games and "egocentrism." (No more blogging, either?) Meanwhile other dioceses are pushing for television rejection and avoiding bottled water. A Venice priest explains that "sobriety" is not only part of Lent but recession-appropriate. But of course, where there is holiness, there is also dissent: One theologian says, "You might as well launch a campaign to turn off the electric light and stay in the dark. This wave of bizarre proposals risk making the whole idea of Lent banal."