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iPhone Apps and the Vatican

03/03/2010 Comment

News of the first Vatican-sponsored application for the iPhone made me wonder what’s needed for app developers to gain Vatican endorsement for their products, or for new digital media in general.

The iPhone app, sponsored by the Vatican Observatory Foundation, is the first to come from a Vatican-affiliated institution. But the Vatican has also been giving its approval to independent app developers, most notably the iBreviary which was developed by Fr. Paolo Padrini, an Italian priest, and an app from H2O news which offers video and audio coverage of the Vatican.

According to Msgr. Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, the Vatican will “approve or sanction” new apps or other digital media depending on their content.  “Certain initiatives will begin locally and if they’re relevant and have potential, they may then be taken up to a more centralized level,” he said. “They grow from the bottom out and some of them will get retrospective sanctioning and some of them won’t.”

Perhaps a good example of what to avoid was a ‘Vatican’ Twitter page which looked so authentic that it fooled many people, including me. As it was using feeds from Vatican Radio without permission, Father Federico Lombardi, the director of Vatican Radio, has been looking into it but may take over the service, or develop a bona fide Twitter service of the Vatican.

“Sometimes the idea is not bad and there’s no hostile intention and we think we could actually take it on ourselves,” said Msgr. Tighe.

He said other Vatican departments, not the Pontifical Council, are currently in discussion with other developers about offering endorsements for their products, and that the Vatican may even be developing some of its own in addition to a Vatican Twitter page, and other digital media it already runs such as the Vatican YouTube channel.

In the meantime, here’s a helpful update of the latest Catholic apps on the iPhone from Faith and Family Magazine.

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About Edward Pentin

Edward Pentin
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Edward Pentin began reporting on the Pope and the Vatican with Vatican Radio before moving on to become the Rome correspondent for the National Catholic Register. He has also reported on the Holy See and the Catholic Church for a number of other publications including Newsweek, Newsmax, Zenit, The Catholic Herald, and The Holy Land Review, a Franciscan publication specializing in the Church and the Middle East. Follow on Twitter @edwardpentin