Pope Francis has given his approval to a Pokemon-style app that encourages users to look for saints and biblical characters in their local streets.
The Follow JC Go! app will work much like the Pokemon Go app where characters such as Pikachu appear in various location across town centres.
It has already been released in Spanish and there are English, Italian and Portuguese versions coming out in the next few weeks.
It will be made available for free on android and iPhone devices.
As well as searching for saints, Marian devotions and biblical figures, users will also be able to interact with the characters they find. The aim is for users to learn more about their faith.
The Pope has given the idea his blessing and revealed that young people had spoken about the positive role technology can play within the Church during an Oct. 3-28 meeting of bishops.
Ricardo Grzona, executive director of the Foundation Ramon Pane, said: “You know Francis is not a very technological person, but he was in awe, he understood the idea, what we were trying to do: combine technology with evangelization.”
When a player has found a biblical figure, they will be able to answer questions to have the character join their team.
For example, when a player ‘finds’ Moses he will ask them: “Was it me who said: ‘My God, my God, why have your forsaken me?’”
If the player answers ‘no’ (it was Jesus who said those words, according to the Gospels of Matthew and Mark) then Moses will join their team.
Players will also need to collect things such as water, food and spirituality to ensure their ‘virtual survival’.
The app will also let users know when they are near a church in the non-virtual world, and that it would be a good time to say a prayer.
When a player passes a hospital in the real world the app will suggest that they say a prayer for the sick.
The virtual city landscape will have billboards, that feature short videos with biblical explanations rather than adverts.
Grzona added: “Never has the Church had a project like this … this is the Catholic app with the most advanced technology there is.
“Everything today, language and relations, among young people, go through smartphone. We wanted to be there and propose to them an educational videogame, that is religious and interactive, and with which they can form evangelization teams.”
Honduran Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga said: “At the synod we speak a lot about young people and technology, a more modern language. What young people want is to be active in taking the Gospel also to technology and have fun, learn and be evangelized through these channels.”
The app has been in development since 2016 and the finished product is the combined work of 43 43 designers, theologians, Bible experts, Church historians and engineers.
Written by Michael Kehoe @michaelcalling