.catholic top level domainIt’s an ancient institution, but the Roman Catholic Church has proved itself to be ultra-modern by being quick off the mark to register one of the new Top Level Domains (gTLDs). The Vatican has been handed control of the catholic gTLD by ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) and will now be responsible for issuing addresses to applicants for website addresses that wish to use the .catholic extension.

The Pontifical Council for Social Communications (PCSC) arm of the Vatican (the body which manages the Pope’s electronic presence), will administer .catholic address requests. A Vatican spokesman has confirmed that addresses will only be issued to “institutions and communities that have canonical recognition” helping Catholics and non-Catholic web users identified “authentically Catholic” websites. There are no plans at present to allow individual bloggers access to the .catholic addressing system.

The PCSC will also oversee website addresses based around non-Latin letter sets, such as those based in the Middle East (Arabic), Russia (Cyrillic) and China (Pin-Yin). Because the addresses will be restricted to sites with formal canonical recognition, international web users will have the same guarantee of Papal authority.

The Catholic Church is the first such religious body to “win” control of a gTLD in this way. As yet no other Christian body (such as the Church of England) has announced similar plans. A Turkish IT company has applied for control of the .islam gTLD, attracting a handful of objections from users who believe that religious addresses should not be under the control of a private company.

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