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Vatican.va at 25: A small seed has grown into a guardian of memory

Strongly desired by Pope Saint John Paul II, the vatican.va website was launched on Christmas Day 1995. For the first time, the texts of the papal magisterium could be shared immediately around the world. Twenty-five years later, in the Holy See’s renewed communications system, it is an indispensable source of information.

By Paolo Ruffini

We are all living in a time with such a short memory that we sometimes forget our own history. That is why birthdays are so important: to remember. Notable anniversaries are even more symbolic: they show the reasons for the patience of time, which allows things to grow up, to grow strong. They give a foretaste of the future to the act of remembering.

Twenty-five years ago, on Christmas Day, the vatican.va website was born. From that day – as the newspapers wrote at the time – the Successor of Peter had a new net to cast over the whole world. But it was not quite like that. The truth is that at the time, it was “only” a seed: planted in new soil, a new “continent.”

Timid beginnings

But today, a quarter century after that timid and prophetic beginning, vatican.va is more than a net. It is a place of shared memory. It is multilingual, accessible to all, integrated with the communication system of the Holy See, which includes Vatican Radio, Vatican News, L’Osservatore Romano, the Daily Bulletin of the Holy See, the social accounts of the Pope, and Vatican Media.

What was once just a page where the Pope’s message urbi et orbi message could be shared on the web for the first time, it is now the first and immediate landing page of the whole Magisterium. What was then in some ways a revolutionary choice is now a reality that calls us together to take stock and engage in a common project.

Notable anniversaries

In the mix can be found our story, and a future yet to be written: for Vatican Radio, which next year will complete its 90th year; for L’Osservatore Romano, which will soon be 160 years old; for the Dicastery for Communication, which just turned five.

There is the story of men and women who  have taken up the challenge, workers of the first and the final hour, “useless servants” who are nonetheless called to a duty that goes beyond their personal and collective stories: to reach people where they are, to speak the language they speak; to domesticate technology for a project that transcends it; to give it meaning, without deluding ourselves that by itself it is enough, without losing the sense of its limits. It is a network that is there to connect, to create relationship.

Relationship building

To communicate means seeking, even stubbornly, to build a relationship. And this relationship is the place where we dwell.

This modest ambition, of which vatican.va is the child, is to build a network that set us free, as opposed to those that imprison; a network that is a guardian of memory, as opposed to dreary gloom of a forgetful present; a network that builds community and not only a connection; a network that tells the whole truth and does not content itself with a perfunctory partial reconstruction.

Sharing is the key word, our guiding star. Sharing the Pope’s thoughts, his words, his magisterial teaching. Making it accessible to all.

Beauty of our shared journey

Celebrating this anniversary helps us to fully grasp the journey thus far, its beauty, its toil, its foreshadowing of the road still to be taken, which will never be fully completed. Remembering the birth of a new thing tells us that the digital world is not “ready-made.” It is not immutable.

It is up to men and women of good will to guide it toward the good. It is up to us – as Pope Francis repeats – to use it to build better opportunities for encounter and solidarity among all people. And this is a good thing, it is a gift from God (cf. the Message for the 48th Day World Communications Day).

24 December 2020, 12:57