Meet the Priest Behind the Vatican-approved iPhone Prayer App

Father Paolo Padrini is the Italian priest who developed iBrevary, an app that puts morning prayer, evening prayer and night prayers on the iPhone. It was the first iPhone application sanctioned by the Holy Roman Church, Padrini also works with the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

I talked to him about what’s next app-wise and what place religious apps have in iTunes.

The email interview was conducted in Italian, translation mine.

CoM: What apps do you use most?

Father Paolo Padrini: Generally, I use apps related to TV, newspapers and magazines. In addition, of course, to my app iBreviary, which I use for “professional” reasons.

Q: What are you working on now?

FPP: I am currently working on several projects, a number of religious apps to enable the faithful to use their iPhones and iPads for prayer and to consult religious texts.

In particular, there are some apps I’m working on to serve the Church, especially parishes. These would help with catechism for kids and parish organization (liturgical calendars, support for sermons). There’s also more in the works for iBreviary, which I hope still has a lot of growth potential.

Q: There have been a number of controversial religion-related apps in iTunes – like the The Manhattan Declaration. What place does religious content have in iTunes? Who should create it?

FPP: I believe that religious content is good…for the iTunes store.
Joking aside, I believe is that the Church is right to have a presence in these tools, both through official channels and those from believers who promote applications of a religious nature that are in good faith.

However, I am very cautious about the economic aspects, which threaten to create a scandal among the faithful and non-believers alike. (Proceeds from Padrini’s iBreviary app first funded parish refurbishments, now it’s offered gratis.)

Q: What do you think of apps that say they help people confess via iPhone?

FPP: For me, the sacraments are a completely separate reality from the dynamics of technology. You cannot, for both theological and pastoral reasons, replace a personal encounter with one over a communication tool, especially if you’re talking about the sacraments…

However, using your iPad or iPhone to read, meditate and prepare for confession is a totally different thing. There’s no way that can be considered a bad thing.

The limit of the relationship between Church and technology is a face-to-face meeting. When you don’t meet in person, there there is no “space” for the “rite,” for the sacraments — and the sacraments are where the Church brings together man and God. This meeting cannot be replaced by a tool. It must be a real meeting, personal, physical.

Q: How do you get the approval of the Catholic Church for an app?

FPP: The Church has no formal process for accepting applications. One must, of course follow the rules of the Church regarding the use of texts (prayers, documents, etc..), of course without changing the content and meaning… but in fact, no approval is given officially by the Church. At least this is the case in Italy.

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