Project leveraging AI to scan and translate Vatican texts dating back to the 8th century

The Vatican Secret Archives sound like a joint that'd give Illuminati conspiracy junkies feverish wet dreams. The site, which sits kitty corner to the Vatican's Apostolic Library, is a treasure trove of Catholic Church documents: over 50 linear miles of that letters, books and papal bulls, some of which date back to the eighth century, to be exact. 

Too bad that you could jam the number of scholastically accessible information in the VSA could be jammed up a gnat's ass and it'd look like a BB in a boxcar.

Y'see, most of what's there is priceless. You'd be a nut to allow folks in to view it on a regular basis, for fear of it being damaged. Those responsible for the VSA have, in the past, made half-assed attempts to scan and translate a small number of the Archive's documents. But remember, we're talking OVER 50 MILES of shelves chockablock with missives, notes and tomes. It'd take a fortune (which the Vatican totally has, I suppose) and an unknowable amount of time to collate, translate and scan everything into a usable format.

According to The Atlantic, computer scientists love challenges like this. A new project called In Codice Ratio is working towards using Artificial Intelligence to understand and translate the Archive's contents using OCR so that the information can be plopped into text documents for humanities scholars to use in their studies. It's tough to do! OCR is notoriously bad at translating handwriting, let alone script which, in some cases, was written in a dead language. Read the rest

Vatican: More trained exorcists needed to fight the demonic

According to the Vatican, demonic possessions are on the uptick. In order to meet the rising demand for assistance by those assailed by the demonic, the Vatican-backed International Association of Exorcists will be holding a training course for Priests interested in fighting the demonic. According to The Guardian, the course will held at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome between 16-21 April.

The announcement of the upcoming Vatican course comes at a time when concerns over whether the rite of exorcism could be seen as a form of spiritual and physical abuse are being raised.

From The Guardian:

Last year, the Christian thinktank Theos reported that exorcisms were a “booming industry” in the UK, particularly among Pentecostal churches.

But some warn that “deliverance ministry” can be a form of spiritual abuse. Critics also say LGBT people and those with mental health issues are targeted for deliverance in the belief that their sexuality or psychiatric problems are the result of demonic possession.

For their part, the Vatican, as well as the Anglican and Orthodox churches, acknowledge that medical care and psychological assessment of anyone asking for exorcism is a must--mistaking a medically treatable condition for spiritual affliction doesn't help anyone. Of equal importance is the fact that, as part of an exorcist's training, it's reinforced that unwanted touching or unrequested exorcisms should not take place.

No matter where your beliefs (or lack thereof) fall on the issue of exorcism, having more trained exorcists rolling around out there will likely be a good thing for those who feel that their only recourse from torment or spiritual danger is through a cleansing rite. Read the rest

After priest/child rape scandal, Australian Archbishop says he'll ask the Pope to allow priests to have sex

As a Royal Commission in Australia wraps up its investigation into decades of rape by priests (especially rape of children), and decades of Church officials obstructing investigation into the rape, Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart says he'll ask the Pope to change the rules so that celibacy for priests is voluntary, not mandatory. Read the rest

Priest built LEGO model of Vatican

Father Bob Simon spent nearly a year of his free time building this intricate LEGO model of the Vatican, now on display at Philadelphia's Franklin Institute adjacent to the "Vatican Splendors" exhibit and "The Art of the Brick" LEGO sculpture exhibit currently on view at the museum. Apparently, Simon built a smaller version of the LEGO Vatican while in junior high school. The current model consists of approximately half a million parts and includes a LEGO pope on the balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square. (Associated Press)

Read the rest

Vatican digitizing archives

Some poor devil has to scan in thousands of handwritten documents over the next four years—it's no wonder bags of cocaine are being intercepted by foreign customs on the way there. Read the rest

Vatican bans child abuse

Good news, everybody! Hada Messia, for CNN:

Pope Francis has laid down a law making it a crime to abuse children sexually or physically on Vatican grounds, the Holy See announced Thursday. The acts were already crimes under church law, but are now specifically outlawed within the Vatican city-state, which is home to hundreds of people.

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Vatican: Batman has "grown bitter and more vengeful"

The Vatican reassured the Catholic faithful that it hadn't been hacked Thursday after as unusual tweet--"Holy Switcheroo! Batman has grown bitter, more vengeful with the years"--appeared on a popular news feed. Read the rest

The butler did it! Pope's butler is the leak behind Vatileaks

VatiLeaks is pretty much what it sounds like: leaks from the Vatican, which culminated in, "Your Holiness: The Secret Papers of Benedict XVI," a blockbusting book from journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, who cites a Vatican source called "Maria" for leaking sensitive letters address to Benedict XVI. Now police have arrested a man whom the press identifies as the Pope's butler, who is accused of being VatiLeaks's Maria. From the NYT:

An on-again-off-again scandal that the Italian press has called VatiLeaks burst into the open on Friday with the arrest by Vatican gendarmes of a man, identified in news reports as Paolo Gabriele, the pope’s butler, who the Vatican said was in possession of confidential documents and was suspected of leaking private letters, some of which were addressed to Pope Benedict XVI.

In Vatican Whodunit, a Punch Line of a Suspect

(via Making Light) Read the rest