An Italian priest who's tired of hearing ringtones during his sermons has decided to block cell phone signals inside the sanctuary, Italian newspaper Il Mattino reports.
Don Michele Madonna, who has led Santa Maria a Montesanto chapel in downtown Naples for two years, said parishioners’ phones were often interrupting services, with people sometimes taking the incoming calls. One cell phone reportedly rang during a funeral.
When Madonna purchased a $60 device that blocks cell signals, he received praise from parishioners. But nearby shop owners say the device has been disrupting their credit card machines.
"For a number of months, we have had problems with debit cards, which go haywire, as do tablets and cellular phones," a local business owner told Il Mattino.
Madonna admits that when the device was first installed, cell phone users said it blocked their access to the messaging app Whatsapp. He said that incident was a “national phenomenon.”
"I had the prosecutor's office process my request to use the device that I bought in a specialized shop," Madonna said. "It works exclusively within the 40 square meters of the church."
Madonna isn't the only clergyman dealing with phones in church. According to a 2013 survey conducted by mobile verification and payments company Jumio, 1 in 5 churchgoers use their cell phones during church services or other places of worship.
In the U.S., some faith leaders are embracing the trend rather than trying to thwart it.
"When you say, 'Open your Bibles,' people's faces light up because their cell phone screens pop open. It works,” Ti Barnhill, a youth pastor at First Free Will Baptist in Albany, Georgia, told Fox31 News website WFXL. “Anything we can do to make it more in front of their faces, in their minds. It's a lot easier to tote your phone around than it is your Bible."