Pope urges young people not to waste time on Internet and smartphones

ROME Tue Aug 5, 2014 9:20pm BST

1 of 3. Pope Francis holds hands with youths during a meeting with altar workers in St Peter's square at the Vatican August 5, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/ Stefano Rellandini

ROME (Reuters) - Pope Francis on Tuesday urged 50,000 German altar servers not to waste time on the Internet, smartphones and television, but to spend their time on more productive activities.

"Maybe many young people waste too many hours on futile things," the pope said in a short speech to the altar servers - young people who help the priest during religious services - who had come to Rome on a pilgrimage.

"Our life is made up of time, and time is a gift from God, so it is important that it be used in good and fruitful actions."

Activities cited by Francis as futile were: "chatting on the Internet or with smartphones, watching TV soap operas, and (using) the products of technological progress, which should simplify and improve the quality of life, but distract attention away from what is really important."

The 77-year-old pope has Twitter accounts in several languages. They were first used by his predecessor Benedict in 2011, and his English language account has 4.3 million followers.

He has described the Internet as a "gift from God", but also cautioned that high-speed world of digital social media needed calm, reflection and tenderness if it was to be "a network not of wires but of people".

(Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Kevin Liffey)