Pope Francis: Putting the Heart in Place of Cell Phones and Cigarettes
Pope Francis encouraged his followers to turn away from cell phone screens and towards what matters at his weekly teaching in the Vatican City on Wednesday. Known for this liberal attitude, the Pope’s statement coincided with a new policy introduced on Thursday: a ban on cigarette sales in Vatican City starting next year.
While many were surprised by the strong stands Pope Francis took in those matters, they seem to align with the broader picture he’s promoted since the start of his legacy. His promotion of demur and dignity has his religious followers, such as Cardinal Cupich, to describe him as “one of the most popular people on the planet”.
During the Mass, the Pope referenced a Bible quote to encourage people not to mistake the use of technology with piety: “the priest says, 'Lift up your hearts.' He doesn't tell us to lift up our cellphones to take pictures."
This is not the first time Pope Francis drew attention to his rejection of technology. Last year, he criticized it for rather keeping people apart, rather than together.
Since then, his remarks seem to have found public appeal, especially his dismissal of the all-encompassing use of cell-phones as “a very ugly thing”, which drew applause in the audience.
In favor of advocating a more reductionist approach to life, the pontiff, a non-smoker, also acted upon issues regarding cigarette sales in Vatican City.
“The Holy See cannot contribute to an activity that clearly damages the health of people,” explained Greg Burke.
Besides health concerns, there also seems to be another issue at stake. The Vatican has so far made very high profits off of the discounted sales reserved for the about 5000 employees and citizens of Vatican City.
When this policy became public due to the leak of Vatican documents in a 2015 published book, various critics regarding the corruptness of the ‘Holy City’ emerged. Next year’s ban on cigarettes might therefore also symbolize another step towards the restoration of the Vatican’s credibility.
Thus, both steps can be considered steps towards a purer sense of piety. By introducing them in his casual and humorous way, Pope Francis, a non-smoker who is known to never have used a cell phone in public, is considered likely to succeed with this mission.