Frédéric Lequin, a parish priest in the south-eastern French town of Notre-Dame de Bellecombe, is offering an unusual service to his congregation: blessings for their smartphones.
He's calling in the faithful for the ceremony on Sunday June 8th during the Pentecostal celebrations.
While the initiative may seem unconventional, Lequin insists that it’s in line with church’s traditions. And its something their counterparts on the other side of the English Channel started doing years ago.
“We must remember that the blessing of communication devices is written into the tradition of the Church just like with boats, carts and all instruments of labour and animals,” the priest told French regional daily Le Progrès.
Lequin says he was inspired by Gil Florini, a priest in Nice who has been blessing electronic equipment since 2011, creating a “mini buzz” within his community.
“Father Gil Florini, parish priest of Saint-Pierre-d'Arène in Nice has already performed such a blessing following the example of the city of London,” Lequin told the paper. “I myself have already blessed animals while I was a priest in Champagne-au-Mont-d’Or and also here in October 2013.”
This isn’t the first time the church has caused a stir in its attempt to adapt to modern times. As its membership declines - just over one in two French people, 56 percent, define themselves as Catholic, a fall from nearly eight out of ten back in 1986 - it has taken a few provocative steps.
In May the Church launched a controversial internet campaign called ‘Adopte un curé’ (adopt a priest) after the popular French, female-oriented dating site ‘Adopte un mec’, (adopt a guy) to attract female fundraisers. It aims to draw in younger, digital-age donors to replenish the thinning ranks of those who give money every year.