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Archbishop: Give up texting, Facebook, iPhones and computer games

An Italian archbishop suggests that Catholics should give up many of their gadgets and social networking tools. Not just for Lent, but to help stop civil war in Congo.

When your town is home to Ferrari and Maserati (oh, and Lamborghini has a factory there too), perhaps you might not be in the most comfortable position to suggest people swear off their technological toys.

Unless you're Monsignor Benito Cocchi, the Archbishop of Modena, Italy. Monsignor Cocchi has got together with other Italian archbishops to suggest that believers give up texting, Facebook, iPhones and computer games.

Oh, this isn't just on Fridays during Lent. No, he wants his flock to give up these heinous gizmos for as many days as possibly until the Second Coming. (No, not the second coming of the iPhone. The other Second Coming.)

Before you scoff at Catholics or Italians or just men who wear purple, please listen to the Monsignor's argument. It is an interesting one. He explains that he is not merely preaching to the converted (and the fans of the Da Vinci Code), those who simply adore the pain of a little self-sacrifice. He is looking to end a war.

There's a crucial element in the manufacture of cell phones, laptops and the like called columbite-tantalite (or coltan). It is a rare mineral that finds its home mainly in the Eastern Congo.

Some businesses anticipate the strictures of Lent. Taco Bell, for one. CC Chad Magiera

A representative of the Catholic Missionary Center in Modena, Francesco Panigadi, told the London Times that profits from the coltan trade were being used to finance a war that is one of the "worst conflicts in modern African history. Eighty per cent of coltan comes from Kivu, the region of Congo where a civil war has cost four million lives in ten years."

This war is very, very nasty. It involves (not exclusively) Hutus and Tutsis, the same incendiary pairing that resulted in the massive Rwandan genocide. And if you seriously think you will stop this war by giving up your iPhone on a Friday, then you'll believe that President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe is about to start a new career in stand-up.

How can one be sure that the Italian clergy is clutching at some very debatable straws? Well, the Trento (almost Germanic, but actually in Northern Italy) diocese has suggested that not only should the youth of Italy give up their gizmos, but that they should also forsake drinking, tossing chewing gum on the sidewalk and, something that very few in the world are ever able to forsake, "egocentrism."

I would discuss this more, but I must send a Tweet about myself. And then feel guilty about it.