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digital reliquaries

The question: ‘is taking a mobile phone picture of the Pope’s body disrespectful or just a sign of how times changed during his 26-year papacy?’

Is it bobbins:

“In the past, pilgrims would take away with them a relic, like a piece of cloth on the saint’s body,” said Gianluca Nicoletti, a media commentator for La Stampa, adding: “Here there’s been the transposition to a level of unreality. They’re bringing home a digital relic.”

Precisely. It’s very, very Catholic, and has a very long history. We’re not that far gone from the days when people would have been chopping bits off JP2’s clothing, or even his person. But it’s not ‘unreality’. Anyone brought up in a Catholic household will know the saint postcards — picture on the front, prayer on the back — from Our Lady of Perpetual Succour and St Jude of hopeless causes to Mother Teresa and Padre Pio. Those are relics-in-place-of-relics too.

Cameraphones as digital reliquaries. It makes curious sense.

It is not clear what most of the pilgrims plan to do with the millions of images of the pope’s body that are now stored within thousands of cellphones.

I wouldn’t be surprised if many are never downloaded, or at least, never erased. The best will be exchanged, or rather proliferate like the wood of the True Cross, each splinter miraculously retaining its integrity. A pity that Nokia’s touch-to-share tech is still in its infancy: it’d be a perfect fit.