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Manila Archdiocese launches 'Catextism'

In response to the strong appeal of Pope John Paul II that the Church must use the Internet as a positive force for good, a new service that harnesses the techonology of the Internet for applications that appeal to a growing number of Filipinos today, is being made available to all cellular phone users and "texters" in the country.

Initiated by the Archdiocese of Manila, in cooperation with the Jesuit Communication Center (JCC) based in Dublin, Ireland, the service -- dubbed "Catextism" -- allows cellular phone users to access spiritual readings, prayer exercises, and even share reflections with other users through a medium popular among Filipinos from all walks of life -- text messaging.

"Texting is now undeniably a way of life for largely Roman Catholic Philippines," says Manila Auxiliary Bishop Socrates Villegas, the project head.  "The very same instrument, the cell phone, which represents the hustle and bustle of many Catholic lives, now gives reminders and guides to prayer.  Catextism's message is the 'God is with us in all situations'," Bishop Villegas said.

To access the service, mobile phone users send the word "Amen" to access code 2371 (for Globe users) and 777 (for Smart users).  A menu returns, from which the text applications are available, including the popular prayer exercise "Sacred Space" copyrighted by the Dublin-based JCC.

The service also lets users share their reflections and talk to other users.  Meanwhile, random passages from the Bible are sent to the user as a basic feature.

"The Church has worked with Smart and Globe on this project and it is only with their cooperation that this project has become a reality.  The two companies pioneered texting and made it overwhelmingly popular in the country," admitted Bishop Villegas.

"Worldwide, the Church is embracing the Internet as a forum for Evangelization.  In the Philippine, the cellular phone is a great influence on the people's lives," he added.

It is recalled how the international media portrayed People Power 2 as a youth-led "lightning uprising" in which text messaging played a crucial role.  Bishop Villegas is rector of the historic EDSA Shrine where people converged in January last year in a peaceful protest action that led to the ouster of former President Estrada.

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