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Prayer group a victim of ‘Zoom bombing’

By  Agnieszka Ruck, Canadian Catholic News
  • April 17, 2020

VANCOUVER -- A peaceful spiritual event in Vancouver became a traumatizing one when at least a dozen people hijacked an online prayer group with shouting and obscene images.

“We were praying the rosary,” recounted Sabrina Siojo. The 20-year-old joined Vancouver’s “Virtual Parish” a few weeks earlier to stay connected with her faith during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The group of about 70 Catholics prays the rosary every evening over the Zoom video conferencing site. On April 1, the group invited young adults from Australia, the U.S. and Honduras, expanding the call to about 300 Catholics.

“We got into the third mystery and Honduras was about to start their turn. It was all in Spanish and quite beautiful. Suddenly, we hear someone saying the ‘n’ word over and over again,” said Siojo.

She thought she had a virus on her computer until she realized everyone else in the call was experiencing it, too. An estimated 15-20 people had joined the video conference and began shouting obscenities, writing Satanic messages and using an annotation function to draw on the screen.

Fr. Paul Goo, the Vancouver archdiocese’s vocations director and host of the Virtual Parish, described the attack as co-ordinated, chaotic and verbally abusive.

But he was also surprised by the responses of some of the Catholics. Though many fled the call, others stayed online, covered their screens with their hands and continued to pray aloud.

In a letter a few days later, he wrote to the participants: “Your example is a witness to the power of Christ’s love which casts out all fears.”

Goo said he has put security measures in place to prevent future hijackings.

The Virtual Parish is not alone in experiencing “Zoom bombing,” where hijackers use weak spots in Zoom security to jump into calls and spread offensive messages.

(The B.C. Catholic)

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