Click to go to Diocese of Green Bay Web site
The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin
Click for past issues online

 Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WisconsinAugust 22, 2003 Issue 

Surf's up

Vatican website serves as an important resource since Pope John Paul OK'd it

By Tony Staley
Compass Editor

Anyone seeking reliable information on the church can do what 2 million people a day do: Go to the Vatican website, Soon, that number should reach 4 million a day because of the recent addition of a virtual tour of the Vatican Museum.

The Vatican site is expanding rapidly - 90 new documents go online each week, joining the 63,000 documents already there in multiple languages for a total of 191,000 pages - two gigabytes of information.

Plus, U.S. donors are giving the Vatican more hardware, including more workstations that computer science interns from Villanova University in Pennsylvania will use to further enhance the site.

How, in less than eight years, the Vatican went from zero web presence to the most popular Catholic website is recounted in a recent story by John Norton of Catholic News Service's Vatican bureau.

The story opens in 1995 with Joaquin Navarro-Valls, papal spokesman and a web advocate, telling Pope John Paul about the Internet and how it could help the church's mission.

"Are we already on the Internet?" the pope asked. "No, we're not. Not yet," Navarro-Valls replied. "Well, who has to give the go-ahead?" the pontiff countered.

"Holy Father, you've got to give it," Navarro-Valls answered with a laugh. "Then do it immediately," the pope said.

Despite the papal go-ahead, other Vatican officials resisted, thinking it too risky. But fortunately, the person who controlled the money - Card. Edmund Szoka, former Archbishop of Detroit, was willing to help.

Card. Szoka phoned donors in the United States, who contributed $55,000 to launch the project, which was staffed by an Argentine layman and U.S. Sr. Judith Zoebelein of the Vatican's computer acquisition and support office.

Next, U.S. Abp. John Foley, head of the Vatican's council for social communications, convinced international Internet regulators to grant the site its unique ".va" suffix.

The site went online on Christmas Day 1995 with a single page containing the pope's Christmas homily and blessing and a link to send him an e-mail. In the first 48 hours, more than 300,000 people from 70 countries visited the site. About 1,000 people left messages.

Even though the pope and other church officials found the feedback gratifying, the site lay dormant until Easter 1997 when it began looking as it does today - thanks in part, at least twice, to personal intervention by the pope.

Look for the site to become more interactive, possibly with a global search engine of Catholic sites. To visit, go to (there's a link to it and to sites for the U.S. Catholic Bishops and the Green Bay Diocese on our website, Happy surfing.

This issue's contents   |   Most recent issue's contents   |   Past issues index

Top of Page | More Menu Items | Home

© Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
1825 Riverside Drive | P.O. Box 23825 | Green Bay, WI 54305-3825
Phone: 920-437-7531 | Fax: 920-437-0694 | E-Mail: [email protected]