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Catholic schism over mobile icons

Virtual saints spark litany of complaints

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A new service is about to launch in Italy offering downloadable images of saints for display on mobile phone screens, to the annoyance of some in the Italian church who feel that technology has no part to play in reinforcing faith.

The Guardian newspaper quotes the bishop of Adria-Rovigo, on Lucio Soravito, who describes the service as a "dreadful idea that has nothing to do with the faith". But Father Antonio Mazzi, who runs a youth-oriented NGO, praises the service as a "modern way to use text messaging to get a religious message through to the young" – though the good Father seems to have trouble distinguishing between text messages and pictures of saints.

Offering "Holy protection always with you on your mobile" for €3 a pop isn't really a new idea - nor is Catholicism the only religion to see its message conveyed using the latest mobile technology.

Youngsters using verses of the Koran as ringtones angered Muslim clerics last year, who argued that interrupting the verse by answering the call was disrespectful to the text and dangerously close to entertainment.

A more comprehensive range of religions, and religious content, is available from MyFaith who offer a range of avatars covering all the popular religions and will deliver wallpaper, devotional messages and notification of religious holidays all for $2.99 a month.

The Santi Protettori service launches on Friday, with a TV campaign, but won't be available outside Italy for the moment at least. ®

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