VATICAN CITY Pope Francis on Sunday called on people to carry and read the bible with as much dedication as they do their mobile phones.
Speaking to pilgrims in a rain-soaked St. Peter's Square, the 80-year-old pope asked: "What would happen if we treated the bible like we do our mobile phones?"
He continued: "If we turned around to retrieve it when we forgot it? If we carried it with us always, even a small pocket version? If we read God's messages in the bible like we read messages on the mobile phone?"
Francis called the comparison "paradoxical" and said it was meant to be a source of reflection, adding that bible reading would help people resist daily temptations.
The pope poses regularly for "selfies" with pilgrims who flock to his weekly audiences wielding smartphones, while his English- and Spanish-language Twitter handles have more than 23 million followers.
Francis last year called the internet, social media and text messages "a gift of God" if used wisely.
"It is not technology which determines whether or not communication is authentic, but rather the human heart and our capacity to use wisely the means at our disposal," he said.
But in 2015 Francis told a young girl he was embarrassed to admit that he did not know how to use computers and was an overall "disaster" with technology. He has also said smartphones should be banned from the family dinner table and children should not have computers in their rooms.
The pope spoke during his last public appearance this week. He and top members of the Roman Curia, or its central bureaucracy, will begin their annual Lenten retreat later on Sunday that will run through Friday.
(Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Ros Russell)