Friday, July 06, 2007
NAZARETH, Israel - Dressed in his embroidered robes, the Rev. Andreas Elime steps from the altar of St. Gabriel’s Church and into the view of the Web cams on the church’s marble pillars. His voice fills the empty 250-year-old sanctuary with a Greek Orthodox hymn, while a computer on a nearby pew transmits personal blessings to three Americans thousands of miles away.
Christian pilgrims have long traveled to the boyhood town of Jesus to seek blessings. Now the Internet can save them the trip.
A service recently launched by Modefine Ltd., a Cyprus company, enables worshippers to log on and watch as a priest utters a prayer for them.
“This takes things to a new level,” said James Martin, a Jesuit priest and associate editor of the Roman Catholic magazine America, who has watched religious trends develop on the Internet. Martin said in a telephone interview that the technology also gives believers a new way to carry out an old practice: asking others to pray for them in sacred places.
“Going to Israel is quite expensive,” said Martin. “So for people who can’t afford it but can afford their monthly (Internet) bill, this is one way to do it.”
Since opening on May 1, the site has fielded hundreds of requests, some 70 percent from Americans but also from Hong Kong, India, Mexico and Australia, said Said Salem, Modefine’s Holy Land representative.
“We have something special here,” he said. “Mary lived here. Jesus grew up here. This is a holy town. This is the basis of Christianity.”
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