One passage in Pope Benedict’s letter today about the Williamson affair particularly stood out — the part where he confessed to almost complete ignorance of the Internet. There can’t be many other world leaders who could write the following lines without blushing: “I have been told that consulting the information available on the internet would have made it possible to perceive the problem early on. I have learned the lesson that in the future in the Holy See we will have to pay greater attention to that source of news.” This made it look as if the world’s largest church was ignorant of the world’s liveliest communications network.
That’s not the case, of course. The Vatican runs a very full website of its own, www.vatican.va, as do Vatican Radio (in 38 languages), Catholic bishops conferences, dioceses and parishes as well as Catholic publications all around the world.
In fact, somebody in the Vatican seems to be following the Internet far more closely that the mainstream media (including ourselves), which missed an interesting little nugget now popping up on tech blogs and some Catholic sites mostly in Europe. The Holy See’s representative to the Government Advisory Committee (GAC) of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) recently warned against the tensions that could be caused if ICANN created new top-level domain names (so-called gTLDs) for religions.
In a letter to the president of ICANN dated February 20, its representative Monsignor Carlo Maria Polvani spoke of “the possible perils connected with the assignment of new gTLDs with reference to religious traditions (e.g., .catholic, .anglican, .orthodox, .hindu, .islam; .muslim, .buddhist, etc…). These gTLDs could provoke competing claims among theological and religious traditions and could possibly result in bitter disputes that would force ICANN, implicitly and/or explicitly, to abandon its wise policy of neutrality by recognizing to a particular group or to a specific organization the legitimacy to represent a given religious tradition.”
ICANN President Paul Twomey responded on February 24 that ICANN was indeed considering new faith-based gTLDs but “an objection may be filed if there is substantial oppostion to the gTLD application from a significant portion of the community to which the gTLD string may be explicitly or implicitly targeted.”