POPE FRANCIS took snap-happy bish­ops, priests and pilgrims to task last Wednesday (8), telling them mass was a time for prayer, not an opportunity to whip out camera phones.

“At a certain point the priest leading the ceremony says ‘lift up our hearts’. He doesn’t say ‘lift up our mobile phones to take photographs’,” he chastised those gathered in Saint Peter’s square for his weekly audience.

“It’s so sad when I’m celebrating mass here or inside the basilica and I see lots of phones held up – not just by the faithful, but also by priests and bishops! Please!”

The 80-year old Argentine pontiff is no stranger to the world of social media, boasting over 14 million followers on his English-language Twitter account alone, and often posing for selfies with enthusi­astic young pilgrims.

But he has a conflicted relationship with mobiles. In February he told young­sters to get off their cell phones during fam­ily meals, warning that the death of face-to-face conversations can have dire conse­quences for society, even resulting in wars.

He has called the internet, social me­dia and text messages “a gift of God” if used wisely, but has also tried to per­suade today’s youth to swap their smart­phones for pocket-sized bibles.

The Pope has also ordered a ban on the sale of cigarettes inside the Vatican from next year because of health concerns. “The motive is very simple: the Holy See cannot be cooperating with a practice that is clearly harming the health of peo­ple,” spokesman Greg Burke said.

Cigarettes have been sold at a dis­counted price to Vatican employees and pensioners. Many Italians ask their non-smoking friends who work in the Vatican to buy cigarettes for them because they cost much less than in Italy.