Pope Francis took a moment during his most recent St. Peter’s Square Papal Audience gathering, where he addresses thousands of faithful attendees, to remind everyone present it’s a time to lift up your heart, not your smartphone. He was referring to the many phones he saw looking out over the crowd, held aloft taking pictures of the proceedings. It was a sight that saddened him, he said, calling the use of phones during Mass, “a very ugly thing.”
He wasn’t only scolding the general audience, but naughty, phone-wielding priests and bishops too.
“It makes me very sad when I celebrate Mass here in the piazza or in the basilica and I see so many cell phones held up. Not only by the faithful, but also by some priests and even bishops! The Mass is not a show, so remember, no cell phones!”
The pope’s unscripted words were met with applause and laughter, as shown in a video of the address, and no doubt some red faces among any clergy who were quickly putting their phones away. It’s not an unreasonable request, as few would want to watch the Papal Audience address on a phone screen held up by the person in front of them, a situation that has become common at many concerts and live events around the world.
Despite his words, the pope is not anti-technology — he has a Twitter account, an Instagram account, a YouTube channel, and a dedicated bot on Facebook Messenger. He has even given a TED Talk, a first for any Pope. This isn’t the first time, however, that he has raised the issue of using smartphones at inappropriate times. In 2015, he used another Papal Audience address to blame the smartphone for the disappearance of the traditional family dinner.
It’s not just smartphones he views as potentially intrusive, but modern technology generally. In 2014, he told a gathering of 50,000 altar servers that high-tech products and the internet “should simplify and improve the quality of life” — words we think many tech companies should heed too — but instead, “they distract attention away from what’s really important.”