.- The director of the Vatican’s website, Msgr. Lucio Adrian Ruiz explained this week in an interview that the site is going through an extensive redesign to improve the Church’s evangelization efforts.
The website can be viewed at: www.vatican.va.
In an interview with L’Osservatore Romano, the Argentinean priest said the Vatican’s website aims to make the Church’s message known to everyone, especially because of the importance Benedict XVI has given to evangelization through the media.
He also said that soon each Vatican dicastery will have its own website and that the general site is undergoing an upgrade, “which will be a long process because vatican.va has 500,000 internal pages …”
The restructuring efforts will focus on two goals, Msgr. Ruiz continued. First, to make the Petrine ministry more present in the digital era; and second, to increase the Vatican’s understanding of the internet, its language and its culture, in order to respond more adequately, as called for by Pope Benedict XVI in his message for World Communications Day 2010.
The Argentinean priest added that his staff will also create a new video section on the website that will include not only clips of Pope Benedict XVI, but also video footage of previous Popes. The site will also have a more extensive and complete papal documents section.
The redesign will also include a section on the diplomatic activities of the Holy See.
Msgr. Ruiz said the Vatican site receives three million visits per day, with the greatest number of visits coming from the United States, followed by Italy, Spain, Germany, Brazil, South Korea, Mexico, Canada, France and China.
He also noted that the site has occasionally been the target of hackers and cyber attacks, but that the staff works closely with Italian online security officials to keep a close eye on their systems.
“Like all large systems, we are an appealing target for professional hackers. We must always be on alert and continue to develop our online security,” he said.
Msgr. Ruiz said his staff includes 21 employees who are split into two groups—one that deals with the technical side, the other with content management. He explained that his staff members “are aware that they are part of one body, and this unity creates a strong synergy of not only mutual help but also of study and comprehension of the enormous mission the Church must fulfill.”
UPDATE: The UK’s best Catholic weekly, The Catholic Herald, has 5 suggestions about how to improve the Vatican website.
Good… the site has needed a facelift for a while now. :)
Please please let them take away the parchment background. It’s clever except that it makes it very very difficult to read the text on the website…
This is fantastic news.
3 million views! Wow. Would a well-placed ad on the homepage be inappropriate? I’m not sure, myself. (They could make some serious revenue if they used Google AdSense, for example.)
I think ads would be completely inappropriate. The Vatican is not trying to make revenue from its website, nor is it in any way a precedent for the websites of autonomous nations to advertise.
The color scheme for documents should change–it’s too hard to read. I also hope the search function is enhanced. Maybe it’s me but I’ve never had any luck finding anything through the search. It figures that just when I acclimate to the site, they change it. 500,000 pages. A crew of 21 people. Wow. Maybe we’ll see this update in 10 years or so.
Yeah, I don’t think ads would be a good idea, but may a link to donate to the various causes supported by the Pope would be a good idea.
I can’t imagine how complicated the task is. There is a huge variety and quantity of information, from the texts of papal encyclicals to virtual tours of papal basilicas. Nonetheless, it is something that needs to be done. The site has been the same up front (though it’s clearly changed — increased vastly — in contents) for years. I’ve found that for me the best way to find things is usually to search for them in a search engine.
And while they are at it… Many of the documents online seem pretty obviously to have been brought from paper through OCR. While OCR is a great boon, it has its problems, and depending on the quality of the original, the font size and the font family, the accuracy ranges from excellent to so so.
It would be wonderful if someone would begin to examine these pages for errors, and to make the needed corrections. Given that there are common patterns to such errors, it may be very practical to create a program which runs the text through a spell checker, and on finding an error, looks for alternate interpretations which are found in the dictionary. This would still require some human intervention, but would speed the process.
And yes, with 500,000 pages online, and may of them probably in the class of documents I am talking about, this will be a huge task. But disseminating the faith is hugely important, and correct texts facilitate this.
If I want to know the latest Vatican news, I go someplace such as the National Catholic Register or the Catholic Herald (neither one of which takes month long vacations!). If I want to know about some response issued by a congregation to some question, I search blogs such as WDTPRS. If I want to read a Vatican document, I go to EWTN. But if they can make it so that ordinary layman and non-Catholics can find answers there to their questions about the faith, then the project will be a success.
There’s also a website for the Diocese of Rome worth an occasional visit: http://www.vicariatusurbis.org/
Having more videos of previous popes is a must. Young Catholics need to be exposed to earlier pontiffs and their messages. The Vatican has been losing out to others on YouTube who have been providing video footage of the various popes.
I’ll have to recant my earlier complaint about the vatican.va search tool. Since I, in frustration, haven’t used it for years, I didn’t know that it now actually seems to function until I just tested it a few minutes ago.
I like it as it stands, although I’ll agree with Agnes and dans0622 that documents should generally be presented as black text on white background.
There’s nothing particularly “dated” about the design, and the criticism that there is is a little rich coming from the Catholic Herald‘s very dated (mid-size online newspaper circa 2008-2010) look. And the favored new design? Also very dated—web 2.1 government circa 2009. What—they didn’t realize that an “up to date” look is dated? Today’s headline news is tommorow’s fishwrap. Their strongest point is the one about architecture, which is right on the money, but completely independent of (and thus irrelevant to questions about) design.
We desperately need fewer attempts to make the Church look more “hip,” “fashionable,” and “of the moment,” because it is precisely none of those things. The Herald and the “why doesn’t the Vatican website look like MTV?” crowd would do well to recall Chesterton: “The Church always seems to be behind the times, when it is really beyond the times; it is waiting till the last fad shall have seen its last summer. It keeps the key of a permanent virtue.”
If the Vatican web site’s search engine is inadequate, try Google using the _site_ keyword to limit the results. For example: _”summorum pontificum” site:vatican.va_
I have mixed feelings on the parchment. On the one hand I’d like it to be easier for others to read, on the other I only find it makes links difficult and… well, let’s just say that finding a genuinely smooth background design is tough: one bold color is garish, many backgrounds do nothing to prevent themselves from being distractions and combinations of colors and/or softer color can easily aggravate the matter rather than resolve it. The parchment worked for me, and I just hope whatever they replace it with — which I do hope happens, since apparently my experience is in the minority — still does.
I hope the Vatican starts scanning in more of its documents (maybe they already are and I’m just not aware of it), especially things like illuminated manuscripts that are too precious to allow for daily handling and yet which could actually be used for prayer again by millions if provided in digital form. A prime example of this is found at the US Library of Congress website:
Click on the “The Lessing J. Rosenwald Collection” link on the above page, then on “Medieval and Renaissance Digital Materials”, then on Rosenwald 14 “PDF”.
What this brings you to is a French “Book of Hours” from A.D. 1524. Since I have already been praying the “Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary” in Latin for almost 3 years now (which this Book of Hours contains along with other prayers and meditations), it is an easy transformation for me to start praying with this version. The beauty of each page provides an incredible “visual boost” to praying the Latin and also to feeling a real temporal union with those who have gone before us. I feel a tangible connection to those who originally hand-lettered and painted this book, as well as to the Medieval Catholics who prayed with it. Access to resources like this can re-aquaint and re-connect us present-day Catholics with our Tradition and serve to better integrate us into the Communion of Saints.
So, I really hope the Vatican will provide more resources like this and then promote their usage…
It’s hard to believe that there are 500K pages on there. That doesn’t seem plausible.
I am so happy to hear this. I use the site all the time for RCIA and teaching. One cannot find out-of-print documents easily. This is great news.
I agree with the comments about the background making the text hard to read, and the difficulty of using the search engine. Still, I’ve been very glad to have this resource. This website has done more to circumvent disinformation in the Church than just about any thing else for the last few years. I hope they keep up the effort. It’s very, very useful. I also think it’s important that it’s beautiful. (and please NO ADS)
I hope the changes aren’t such as to become unrecognizable. I like the parchment background… it is very unique, as the website of the Holy See should be. I visit it often, though things can be hard to find. I have found more than a few documents tucked away in places with no direct link to them. Things like that need to be fixed. There is more on there than people are aware of!
And 500k pages is very easy to believe, considering the multiple languages everything is in.