By Sarah Delaney
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI himself will give a cyber spark of life to a new Internet portal that gathers all Vatican news into one multimedia website, officials from the Vatican’s communications office announced.
With a click on a tablet device on the evening of June 28, Pope Benedict will officially launch the aggregator of news content from the Vatican’s newspaper, radio, television and online outlets, they said.
The site, www.news.va, will be fully functional June 29, said Archbishop Claudio Celli, who heads the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.
The date coincides with the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul and the 60th anniversary of Pope Benedict’s ordination into the priesthood.
Archbishop Celli explained at a June 27 news conference that the site will streamline news from the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano; Vatican Radio; the Vatican television station CTV; the Vatican Information Service (VIS); the Fides missionary news agency; the Vatican press office; and the main Vatican website.
It will offer print, video and audio material in Italian and English. New languages will be added gradually, beginning with Spanish, followed probably by French and Portuguese, he said.
Thaddeus Jones, an official of the pontifical council who coordinated the creation of the portal, said it will give all the information generated by the various information sources but will highlight the latest news and most important items of the day.
It will feature a list of the 10 most-read stories and offer links to many social network sites. Users will be able to share content through Facebook, Twitter and email, Jones said.
Gustavo Entrala, CEO of 101, the Spanish digital media agency chosen for the technical development of the new site, said it was constructed on a high-end flexible platform that will allow millions of people to use it at the same time.
The first big test, said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, head of the Vatican press office, will be the World Youth Day event in Madrid Aug. 16-21, which will be attended by Pope Benedict and which is expected to generate heavy traffic to the site.
Costs of the development and maintenance of the site will be borne exclusively through donations from private organizations and foundations, Archbishop Celli said. It will not be supported at present or in the future by advertising or other commercial initiatives, he said.
While Pope Benedict may not appear to be a media-savvy pontiff, Archbishop Celli said, “in reality, with this pope Vatican communications have made enormous strides.”
The archbishop gave as an example the pope’s reply when his advisers proposed an appearance on YouTube. According to the archbishop, the pope replied, “I want to be present wherever the people are found.”
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