Pope Francis today urged followers to give up trolling people on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook for Lent.
He said there was too much ‘verbal violence’ in the world which was ‘amplified by the internet’.
Francis added that Lent was ‘a time to give up useless words, gossip, rumours, tittle-tattle and speak to God on a first name basis.’
He was addressing tens of thousands of worshipers in St Peter’s Square, Rome, on Ash Wednesday – the start of the 40-day season of Lent leading up to Easter.
Francis said: ‘We live in an atmosphere polluted by too much verbal violence, too many offensive and harmful words, which are amplified by the internet.
‘Today, people insult each other as if they were saying good day.’
During Lent, Catholics are usually called on to give up treats or indulgences like chocolate or alcohol.
In recent years, Francis himself has been the butt of insults from ultra-conservative Catholic websites and mostly anonymous anti-pope Twitter feeds.
Twitter has also become a platform for sometimes pitched verbal battles between his supporters and detractors.
Later on Wednesday, Francis was due to have ashes rubbed on his forehead at a traditional Ash Wednesday service that reminds Christians of mortality and that everyone will someday become dust.
During Lent, which is marked by repentance, fasting and reflection, the faithful are also called on to practice more good deeds, such as alms giving, and to be particularly closer to the needy.