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The erosary and app

Vatican launches ‘eRosary’ for Catholic technophiles

Image credit: Pope's Worldwide Prayer Network

The Vatican has presented a wearable device – an app-driven rosary for learning about prayer – in an effort to engage tech-savvy young people with the Catholic Church.

The wearable device was revealed at an event in the Vatican’s Holy See Press Office. It was developed as part of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network project to connect Catholics in prayer – which previously launched an official prayer app – and engineered by Taipei-based GadgeTek Inc.

The Rosary is a central tool for prayer in Catholic tradition, comprised of a string of beads (or knots) used to keep track of a time-consuming sequence of dozens of prayers, including 53 Hail Marys.

The 'Click To Pray eRosary' is a small bracelet-sized wearable, consisting of ten black agate and hematite beads (most rosaries contain 59 beads) and a ‘smart cross’ in which the electronics are concealed. The rosary is activated by the sign of the cross gesture, after which the wearer can connect it to a smartphone and choose between different praying options available on the Click To Pray app: standard rosary, contemplative rosary, or thematic rosary. The app also offers an audio guide complete with music, narration, and images; personalised content about praying the rosary; and allows the wearer to track their prayer progress.

“Once the prayer begins, the smart rosary shows the user’s progression throughout the different mysteries [reflections on Biblical events] and keeps track of each rosary completed,” a press statement from the Vatican said.

Unexpectedly, the eRosary also functions as a fitness tracker, collecting data on steps, calories, and distance walked. The eRosary will be sold on Amazon.it for $99 (£85.40) and is currently available for preorder.

The Click To Pray website states that the device is “aimed at the peripheral frontiers of the digital world where the young people dwell”, and “brings together the best of the Church’s spiritual tradition and the latest advances of the technological world”.

The eRosary is likely to be perceived as an attempt to remain relevant and engage young, forward-facing people with Catholicism as its dominance in Europe continues to decline, with rapidly falling membership in almost every country in Europe.

The Catholic Church is not the first institution to experiment with combining modern technology with deeply traditional religious practice; a Buddhist Temple on the outskirts of Beijing installed a robotic monk in 2016 which can chant mantras and hold simple conversations with visitors, while SoftBank’s Pepper robot was trusted to carry out a Buddhist funeral service in Tokyo in 2017.

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