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Vatican office rejects email communications

The Apostolic Penitentiary has written to bishops warning that it will not accept email or fax communications, saying that the "epistolary method" - an exchange of letters - is the only way such matters can be handled privately and securely.

The Apostolic Penitentiary, which wrote to bishops in late October, is a Vatican tribunal for confidential issues related to the sacrament of penance.

"Just about any malicious 5-year-old these days" can hack into Internet communications, a penitentiary official said.

A smattering of Vatican offices publishes e-mail addresses in the Vatican's official yearly church directory, but even some that do are wary of e-mail because of the risk of interceptions of privileged communications, violations of privacy and potential forgeries.

For example, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, according to an official there, conducts "99.99%" of its business on paper. The congregation requires petitions and other submissions to be signed and sometimes notarised as a "basic precaution" to ensure their authenticity, the official said.

A Vatican document earlier this year noted with satisfaction the church's gradual but steady embrace of the Internet, which it praised as a powerful tool for information, evangelisation and communication among clergy and faithful.

Catholic News Service

Apostolic Penitentiary
Vatican official spells out conditions for supporting Internet (20/6/02)
What would Jesus surf? (Wired 1/3/02)
Vatican Documents: Ethics in Internet | The Church and the Internet

9 Dec 2002