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 CNS Story:

ITALY-FAST Mar-4-2009 (480 words) xxxi

Italian dioceses suggest Lenten fasts from texting, bottled water

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

ROME (CNS) -- The stereotypical Italian communicates with his hands and sips Chianti, but text messaging and drinking bottled water have become even more common and some dioceses are trying to put a stop to the practices -- at least for Lent.

Archbishop Benito Cocchi of Modena-Nonantola has asked people "to fast" from sending text messages on their cellular phones, at least on the Fridays of Lent.

And the Archdiocese of Venice's office for Christian lifestyles has asked the faithful there "to turn on the faucet" and give up bottled water.

Bishops and priests in neighboring dioceses have urged their members to do the same.

As Lent began Feb. 25, Archbishop Cocchi told the faithful that Lent was a time to use fewer words and less food, drinks and games in order to concentrate on strengthening a real relationship with God and with others.

The archdiocesan office for missionary awareness, he said, had a good idea: Give up sending text messages.

Studies have shown that only in Great Britain and Spain do people send more text messages per capita than in Italy. In February a study of teenagers in Italy's Lombard region concluded that every Italian ages 13-16 sends an average of 47 text messages a day.

But for Archbishop Cocchi the no-text Lent was not just a matter of giving one's thumbs a rest from hitting those tiny keys; rather, it was a way to remember that "our style of life has an impact on geographical locations far away."

In fact, he said, the mineral ore columbite-tantalite is used to manufacture cellular phones. Some 80 percent of the world's supply comes from Congo and many human rights organizations believe that the sale of the mineral has helped finance civil violence in the country.

"This year we want to remember that the use of our fingers on our cellular phones has contributed to writing the story of millions of lives in Congo," Archbishop Cocchi said.

The proposal from the Archdiocese of Venice to give up bottled water was just the first idea on a list offered by the office for Christian lifestyles, but it was the suggestion cited most in newspapers and supported most by other dioceses.

Italians lead the world in the consumption of bottled water, even though their tap water is clean and pure; a 2008 study said that each Italian drinks 190 liters -- more than 50 gallons -- of bottled water each year.

Father Gianni Fazzini, director of the lifestyles office, said the Lenten process of conversion means Catholics should "review our consumption and choose products that respect creation and the workers who make those products."

Italian initiatives to reduce the consumption of bottled water have focused on the fact that it is unnecessary, expensive and creates garbage -- bobbing water bottles frequently are a sight on Italian beaches and waterways, including the famous canals of Venice.


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