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Dial-a-prayer upgraded for the wireless age

At Christmas, for the first time, Catholics in Italy could receive video transmissions of Pope John Paul's Midnight Mass and his Christmas Day message on their third-generation cellphones for free.

This papal connection was made possible because of an agreement between the Italian state broadcaster RAI and the cellphone operators Vodafone and Telecom Italia Mobile.

According to the New York Times, this was not a one-time telephonic event. The Holy See stays in touch with the faithful all year by texting "The Papal Thought of the Day" by mobile phone on a daily basis. The service is available to subscribers in Italy, Ireland, Malta, Britain and the United States, where it costs 30 cents a message.

In Britain, the Catholic Bishops' Conference says it believes digital media are an ideal way to spread the good news. "Text messages, e-mail and fax are wonderful means of communication for us," said Josephine Siedlecka, a church spokeswoman.

A Web site called Sacred Space, started by the Jesuits in Ireland to help people set aside 10 minutes for prayer and meditation a day, also has been successful, receiving millions of hits a day, she said. But it is text messaging via the so-called short message service, or SMS, that is fast becoming a favored way to spread the word by many religions.

Dial-a-Prayer, Upgraded for the Wireless Age (New York Times 16/1/05)

Daily Verse SMS
Pontifical Council for Social Communications | The Church and the Internet

Pope spreads the Word by SMS (CathNews 15/1/03)
Pope expands evangelisation by mobile phone (CathNews 23/7/03)
Vatican news available on handheld devices (CathNews 31/10/03)

17 Jan 2005