Italians asked to give up texting for Lent

LONDON - The Roman Catholic Church is suggesting its followers swear off social networking, texting and video games in recognition of Lent this year.

Traditionally, Catholics around the world give up foodstuffs such as meat and chocolate, or vices like alcohol and cigarettes during the 40 days of Lent leading up to the Easter holiday.

However the Church has made alternative suggestions for 2009, asking its faithful to stay off social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and give the mobile phone some rest.

Many believe the move follows Pope Benedict XVI's recent warning to young people about the perils of exchanging "virtual" friendships for real human contact.

Some have criticised the Catholic Church's suggestion, saying that people would be better off giving up their daily cup of coffee and donating the money to charity.

Lent spans the period from Ash Wednesday, on February 25 this year, and ends on Easter Saturday, on April 11.

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