VATICAN CITY, March 16 (RNS)--Pope John Paul II gave his blessing Friday to a plan by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications topublish a study of ethical issues posed by the Internet.

The 80-year-old Roman Catholic pontiff said the document, "Ethics inInternet," would be "very timely, given the rapid spread ofcyber-communications and the many moral questions involved."

"The church cannot be a mere spectator of the social results oftechnological advances, which have such decisive effects on people'slives," John Paul told council members attending a Vatican audience.

The council also is looking for a patron saint for the Internet,Monsignor Pierfranco Pastore, the council secretary, told Vatican RadioThursday. He said the learned St. Isidore of Seville is aleading candidate.

Under its American president, Archbishop John P. Foley, formereditor of Philadelphia's diocesan newspaper The Catholic Standard andTimes, the council published studies of "Ethics in Advertising" in 1997and "Ethics in Communications" last May.

"The problems and opportunities created by new technology, by theprocess of globalization, by deregularization and privatization of themedia present new ethical and, indeed, spiritual challenges to those whowork in social communications," the pope said.

Quoting from "Ethics in Communications," John Paul said, "Thesechallenges will be met effectively by those who accept that `serving thehuman person, building up community grounded in solidarity and justiceand love, and speaking the truth about human life and its finalfulfillment in God were, are and will remain at the heart of ethics inthe media.'"

Pastore, a former Vatican spokesman, said the choices of patronsaints for the Internet and for cinema are under discussion at thecurrent plenary meeting of council members. They would serve alongsideSt. Gabriel, patron of radio; St. Clare, patron of television; and St.Francis of Sales, patron of the press.

The council has asked dioceses and local churches to help it draw upa list of candidates to be submitted to the Vatican Secretariat ofState, and many have chosen St. Isidore, Pastore said.

The Spanish saint, archbishop of Seville in the early seventhcentury, was considered the last of the fathers of the Latin church andwas admired for his encyclopedic knowledge. The author of biographiesand histories, he was best known for "The Etymologist," a study ofgrammar and rhetoric.

In Spain, the saint's name is closely associated with bullfighting.He is the patron saint of Madrid, and the celebration of his feast dayon April 4 each year marks the start of a week of bullfights named forhim.

Isidore was canonized in 1598 and made a doctor of the church in1722.

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