Vatican seeks patron saint of the internet to protect errant surfers

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The hazards are familiar enough: it can be incapacitated by virus, inundated with spam, infested by worms. Servers can be struck down, systems crash. Temptations pop up in unlikely places, comely navels and thighs beckon, sins of lust and covetousness are only a click away.

The hazards are familiar enough: it can be incapacitated by virus, inundated with spam, infested by worms. Servers can be struck down, systems crash. Temptations pop up in unlikely places, comely navels and thighs beckon, sins of lust and covetousness are only a click away.

The internet, now ubiquitous and almost indispensable, has become a mirror for human frailties, which is why Holy Saints, a Roman Catholic organisation in northern Italy, is campaigning for the selection of a Patron Saint of the Internet, a "protector of the Net and its users and of information programs".

Through its website, www.santibeati.it, Holy Saints is soliciting votes for protectors. "We had lots of requests for a patron," Roberto Diani, an internet adviser for the Conference of Bishops, told The Washington Post, "so we decided the internet was the best tool for finding one."

The website has narrowed the race to six candidates, with the winner to be decided before Easter by the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Cult and Discipline of Sacrament.

Out in front with more than one quarter of votes is the 19th- century Saint John Bosco, a "great apostle of youth" as the site describes him. His affinity with the Web is speed – "the very great rapidity with which devotion to him spread all over the world".

Father Giacomo Alberione, who was beatified by the Pope last month, is another strong contender. His followers describe him as "humble, silent, tireless" (like a late model Dell laptop), and a man who "has given the Church new instruments to express herself". Sant'Alfonso Mara de Liguori is equally formidable. Brainy and precocious, this 18th-century Neapolitan divine was a sort of walking Web, renowned as poet, musician, architect and painter, before becoming a priest. He "ventured far and wide, carrying the Gospel everywhere" and to those places he couldn't reach he sent letters.

This must all be disappointing to the Angel Gabriel – surely Christianity's most effective communicator, connected to the great Server in the sky – to find himself limping along at number 5. If you think this wrong must be righted, cast your vote now.

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