Its ancient library holds more than 180,000 manuscripts and 1.6 million books, and it describes its secret archive, which packs priceless documents onto 80km of shelving, as “one of the most important research centers in the world.”
The Vatican’s reputation as a font of knowledge was further boosted when Joseph Ratzinger, a former academic and prolific writer, was elected as pope.
That is why eyebrows were raised when the Vatican resorted to Wikipedia when it released potted biographies of 22 new cardinals who were appointed on Jan. 6.
The biographies, sent to journalists, were cut and pasted from Wikipedia’s Italian--language site without attribution, but questions were asked when many of the archbishops were described as Catholic — a statement recalling the frequently asked question: “Is the pope Catholic?”
In a tone that does not exactly match the Vatican’s style, Willem Jacobus Eijk, archbishop of Utrecht, is described as having a “strong tendency to conservatism, specially regarding abortion and homosexuality, which has made him one of the most talked about religious men in the country.”
The Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said that the biographies were carefully labeled as “unofficial” and said the decision to use Wikipedia was a temporary measure driven by haste.
“Since then we have been putting up official bios on our site,” he said.
However, the use of Wikipedia seems in line with the pope’s approval of the Internet.
After he was criticized in 2009 for being in the dark over Bishop Richard Williamson’s claim that the Nazis did not use gas chambers, he wrote: “In future at the Holy See, we must pay more attention to that source of news.”