Rare Vatican manuscripts to be digitized

Ancient manuscripts in the Vatican library penned from East Asia to the Pre-Colombian Americas will be digitized by a Japanese company as part of a global project to make the collection available for free viewing by the public.

Rare Vatican manuscripts to be digitized
Toshio Iwamoto hakes hands with archivist and librarian of the Holy Roman Church, French archbishop Jean-Louis Brugues. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

Japan's NTT DATA will digitize 3,000 historical works and put them online over a four-year period in an initiative costing €18 million, the company said at a press conference in the Vatican on Thursday.

"The manuscripts to be digitized go from the Pre-Colombian American period to the Chinese and Japanese East Asia, passing through all the languages and cultures which have animated Europe," the Vatican's librarian and archivist Jean-Louis Brugues said.

The library began digitizing its books a couple of years ago and the deal with NTT DATA will bring the total of manuscripts converted to 15,000 by 2018.

NTT DATA's head Toshio Iwamoto said the company was eager to participate "in an operation which will lead to the digitization and preservation of some 80,000 books and 41 million pages which could be considered as global heritage, written between the second and 20th centuries".

The company is active in over 40 countries and is experienced in digitizing rare manuscripts.

Brugues underlined the Holy See's desire "to make the immense treasure entrusted to it available, by offering free consultation on the Internet".

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Pope appoints French woman to senior synod post

Pope Francis has broken with Catholic tradition to appoint a woman as an undersecretary of the synod of bishops, the first to hold the post with voting rights in a body that studies major questions of doctrine.

Pope appoints French woman to senior synod post
Pope Francis has appointed Nathalie Becquart as undersecretary of the synod of bishops. She is the first woman to hold the post. Photo: AFP

Frenchwoman Nathalie Becquart is one of the two new undersecretaries named on Saturday to the synod, where she has been a consultant since 2019.

The appointment signals the pontiff's desire “for a greater participation of women in the process of discernment and decision-making in the church”, said Cardinal Mario Grech, the secretary-general of the synod.

“During the previous synods, the number of women participating as experts and listeners has increased,” he said.

“With the nomination of Sister Nathalie Becquart and her possibility of participating in voting, a door has opened.”

The synod is led by bishops and cardinals who have voting rights and also comprises experts who cannot vote, with the next gathering scheduled for autumn 2022.

A special synod on the Amazon in 2019 saw 35 female “auditors” invited to the assembly, but none could vote.

The Argentinian-born pope has signalled his wish to reform the synod and have women and laypeople play a greater role in the church.

He named Spaniard Luis Marin de San Martin as the other under undersecretary in the synod of bishops.

Becquart, 52, a member of the France-based Xaviere Sisters, has a master's degree in management from the prestigious HEC business school in Paris and studied in Boston before joining the order.