Pope Francis added a new suggestion to the list of things Catholics should consider abstaining from during the 40-day season of Lent: online trolling.
The pope said during Ash Wednesday remarks that in addition to giving up junk food or other vices during the lead-up to Easter, Christians should also abstain from social media conflict, according to Reuters:
Lent, he said in partially improvised remarks, "is a time to give up useless words, gossip, rumours, tittle-tattle and speak to God on a first name basis," he said.
"We live in an atmosphere polluted by too much verbal violence, too many offensive and harmful words, which are amplified by the internet," he said. "Today, people insult each other as if they were saying 'Good Day.'"
Not only should people stop attacking one another online during Lent, the pope said, but they should consider unplugging from technology in general in order to get closer to God. From the Verge:
"We live in an environment polluted by too much verbal violence, by many offensive and harmful words, which the internet amplifies," said Pope Francis. "We are inundated with empty words, with advertisements, with subtle messages. We have become used to hearing everything about everyone and we risk slipping into a worldliness that atrophies our hearts."
"Hearing everything about everyone" is a remarkably good description of how the current internet can feel — though the Pope's prescription, granted, is more specific than most digital detox programs. "Lent is the right time to make room for the Word of God. It is the time to turn off the television and open the Bible. It is the time to disconnect from your cell phone and connect to the Gospel," he said.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a 40-day period of fasting, reflection, and good deeds leading to the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter. Many Christians wear ashes on their forehead for the day, a symbol of man's mortality and repentance.