Pope Francis is calling on Catholics to put down their cellphones during worship — which, he said, should be a time for prayer and not for taking photos.
That means priests and bishops, too, he said.
“This is a bad thing,” he said during his weekly general audience on Wednesday at St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City.
“It makes me very sad when I celebrate mass here in the Square or in the Basilica and I see many cellphones raised,” the pope said. “And it’s not only the faithful, but also many priests and bishops.”
The Catholic News Service said on Twitter that the pope sounded “exasperated.”
“Please!” the pope implored. “Mass is not a show!”
The pointed remarks, reportedly off-the-cuff, drew applause. And they generally received favorable coverage.
The Catholic News Agency tweeted: “The pope had something to get off his chest during his general audience today; he is tired of seeing so many phones out during mass.”
It’s not the first time that the pope has addressed cellphone usage. Speaking to crowds in St. Peter’s Square in May, Francis called on Catholics to use their Bibles with the same frequency as they use their cellphones.
And last year, in the apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetita,” or “The Joy of Love,” he urged Catholics to be mindful of when they use their cellphones. “We know that sometimes they can keep people apart rather than together, as when at dinnertime everyone is surfing on a mobile phone, or when one spouse falls asleep waiting for the other who spends hours playing with an electronic device.”
In other words, cellphones can be a distraction in relationships with one another and with God. That was the crux of his message this week, too. The pope reminded his audience that priests invoke the faithful during mass to “lift up your hearts,” not “lift up your cellphones to take a photo.”
Francis also is ending one of the less healthy perks of life in the Vatican: cheap cigarettes.
Selling discounted tobacco to employees and pensioners — without the increasingly stringent taxes imposed in surrounding Italy — has long been a source of revenue for tiny Vatican City. Many people in Rome buy cigarettes through acquaintances at the Vatican.
But cigarette sales will be banned starting next year, a Vatican spokesman announced Thursday. “The Holy See cannot contribute to an activity that clearly damages the health of people,” said the spokesman, Greg Burke, citing World Health Organization figures that smoking causes 7 million deaths a year.
The sales had been profitable for the Vatican, he said, but “no profit can be legitimate if it puts lives at risk.”