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Feb. 29, 2020, 8:11 a.m. EST

What the pope wants Catholics to give up for Lent: trolling

“People insult each other as if they were saying ‘Good Day,’ ” Pope Francis observes

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By Nicole Lyn Pesce

Getty Images
Pope Francis wants Catholics to be nicer, especially online.

Thou shalt not troll.

Thus spake Pope Francis while addressing tens of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent — a 40-day period of fasting, repentance and reflection leading up to Easter Sunday, when Catholics often give up some Earthly pleasure or practice, like eating sweets or using social media.

Read more: Americans are giving up social media for Lent — or at least they say they are

In remarks that Reuters noted were “partially improvised,” the pope preached that Lent “is a time to give up useless words, gossip, rumors, tittle-tattle and speak to God on a first-name basis.”

“We live in an atmosphere polluted by too much verbal violence, too many offensive and harmful words, which are amplified by the internet. Today, people insult each other as if they were saying, ‘Good Day.’”

Indeed, cyberbullying has become a global issue, with e-safety education organization i-SAFE warning that more than half (58%) of kids admit someone has said mean or hurtful things to them online, and one-third (35%) having been threatened online.

What’s more, a 2017 survey of 3,000 Americans found that nearly half (47%) had suffered some form of online harassment or abuse — but, for those ages 18 to 29, that figure climbed to 65%. And politicians on both sides of the aisle have been swearing an obscene amount on Twitter /zigman2/quotes/203180645/composite TWTR -0.11% .

Research suggests that online trolling can cause psychological distress and wreak havoc on sleep, especially among young women.

His Holiness has had been the target of online insults himself, both from ultraconservative Catholic websites and anti-pope Twitter feeds, Reuters reported.

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