The Italian Almanac

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Second Life residents

Jesuits in Second Life

Catholic missionaries must be sent into the virtual world of 'Second Life' to spread their message in the internet-based universe, according to the largest Catholic religious order. The Jesuits, well known for their missionary work around the real world, are urging the Church to venture into the parallel reality of Second Life where anyone can lead a simulated existence.

Second Life, which was launched in 2003, enables its users, called Residents, to interact with each other in its computer-generated world through 'avatars'. These are the characters which users create for themselves and which embody their presence in the 'game'. Residents can explore, meet other Residents, socialise, participate in individual and group activities, create and trade property and provide services for one another - all paid for using the world's virtual currency. The creators of the Second Life world, Linden Research Inc., say about 7 million users have been registered but it is unclear how many people regularly participate through their avatars.

"The digital world is, in its own way, a land of mission too," said an article in Civilta' Cattolica, the prestigious monthly published by the Jesuits. "Any initiative able to animate this place positively should be seen as opportune," it added. Second Life Residents say that the real world is increasingly materialising in their parallel universe as companies set up virtual offices, nations create embassies there and universities establish teaching facilities.

Recently Second Life has also been enriched by places of prayer, mosques, churches, cathedrals and convents all filled with avatars keen to meditate and find God.