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Society of Jesus calls missionaries to Second Life

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Jesuit missionaries may soon venture into Second Life, intent on saving virtual people from virtual sins.

Writing in the Italian Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica, whose contents are approved by the Vatican, Father Antonio Spadaro has told fellow Catholics that they shouldn't be wary of venturing into Second Life's virtual world, arguing that the online alternate universe might be the perfect place to land converts, Reuters reports.

"It's not possible to close our eyes to this phenomenon or rush to judge it," Spadaro said. "Instead, it needs to be understood ... the best way to understand it is to enter it." A regular contributor to the Jesuit journal, Spadaro has also lauded Tom Waits as a Christian role model.

With his latest piece, the 40-year-old academic warned that "the erotic dimension is very present" in Second Life, explaining that users often buy virtual genitalia for their virtual avatars and that Linden Lab's 3D world is "open to any form of erotic stimulation from prostitution to pedophilia."

But he also said that Second Life is home to various churches and temples, quoting a Swedish Muslim who says "his avatar prays as regularly as he prays in real life," and though this sort of thing is far from the norm, Spadaro believes that many who venture into Second Life's virtual den of iniquity may be calling out for virtual help.

"Deep down, the digital world can be considered, in its way, mission territory," he said. "Second Life is somewhere where the opportunity to meet people and to grow should not be missed, therefore, any initiative that can inspire the residents in a positive way should be considered opportune."®

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