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Vatican launches second website in just 2000 years

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The Vatican is to update its notoriously creaky comms operation this week, with a new easy to use and doctrinally sound news portal.

News.va will, apparently, be launched with a papal click of the mouse by Pope Benedict himself, doubtless leading to questions as to whether this will make the site the world's only infallible provider of news.

Significantly, the site will initially launch in English and Italian, with other languages to come on stream in time. There is no indication as to whether there will be a Latin language version.

Monsignor Claudio Maria Celli, whose office spearheaded the development, told the AP the site would aggregate the Vatican's assorted news operations, which include radio and TV broadcasts.

It will be integrated with Twitter and Facebook from the off. Celli said he hoped it would encourage some of the stick-in-the-muds in the Vatican to up their game when it comes to its own internal communication.

"I think that we must educate the Roman Curia of what is the real meaning of communication," Celli said. "Little by little they will perceive that this is the real meaning to be present, to have a relevance."

The increased focus on social networking follows much arguing within the church as to whether blogs, Twitter and the like are a means to evangelisation or tools of the devil designed to alienate and lead astray the faithful.

However, the fact the Pope will be pushing the button shouldn't be seen as an endorsement of social networking, or imposing his infallible imprimatur on the internet.

Good Catholics and good Vatican watchers will of course be familiar with the ins and outs of dogma of infallibility. For non-Latin readers the essential point is that the Pope is only infallible when he says he is infallible.

Similarly, conspiracy theorists will wonder what the significance is of the launch date. It is, apparently, the 60th anniversary of Pope Benedict's ordination as a priest.

It is also the Feast of Sts Peter and Paul, and as such a Holy Day of Obligation, on which Catholics are required to attend mass. Which is one way of ensuring that the site is not immediately swamped by the faithful. ®

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