Missionaries have been urged to scour the virtual world of online computer games in an attempt to convert cyber souls.
The instruction has been made by Father Antonio Spadaro, writing in the Vatican-approved journal La Civilta` Cattolica.
Second Life players create virtual versions of themselves, known as Avatars, and can buy, sell and interact with other users in a vast computer-generated world accessed by the internet.
Father Spadaro’s concern is that users find themselves free of the constraints of regular life and sin has flourished in the various towns which make up Second Life.
Gambling and prostitution are rife and millions of real dollars exchange hands between players every year.
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In some countries, such as Germany, where virtual misdemeanors can constitute crimes, the authorities have already been called in to investigate claims of paedophilia in the online world.
“It is not possible to turn a blind eye to this phenomenon, or offhandedly pass judgement glorifying or condemning it,” said Father Spadaro. “Instead it must be understood…the best way to understand it is to enter it and live inside it to recognise its potential and dangers.”
John Lester, of Second Life producer Linden Lab, said: “I think it’s a cool idea for folks to want to make sure that their side of spirituality is being represented.”.
Second life claims to have more than 8 million “residents” and is home to companies from Adidas and Calvin Klein to BMW and Vodafone.
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