The Vatican launched on Wednesday a new pilot program in which church officials offer to lend Apple iPods to its worshippers.
Pilgrims visiting one of the Catholic Church’s landmark Basilicas in Rome will be asked if they would like to borrow an iPod, which have been loaded with a range of special features.
The new pilot aims to utilize modern technology and enhance the visits of pilgrims. It is hoped that the program will help the church connect with younger churchgoers, as well as help to reduce noise of old-style tour guide parties.
The iPods have been loaded with a specially designed app that allows users to access information and pictures of the basilica’s art and architecture, as well as offering facts and details about Christian history.
In a telephone interview with AP, the Rev. Caesar Atuire, who is the CEO of the pilgrim agency that is running the pilot, said: “It is designed to appeal to wider audience than the usual churchgoer.”
The special Catholic app will allow tourists to zoom-in on high resolution pictures of some of the stunning artwork and architecture in the building. Rev. Atuire also told AP that users of the iPods will be able to download restricted images from the Vatican Library not usually available to the public.
“Basically, we have taken an iPod, we've filled it with plenty of content, with history, with everything you need to know about the basilica," Rosa Maria Mancini, a spokeswoman for the Vatican pilgrim agency Opera Roman Pellegrinaggi told AP. "You can discover it piece by piece."
The pilot is being operated in Rome’s Basilica of St. John Lateran, and the Catholic Church will not charge any fee for pilgrims that want to use the iPods as they tour the basilica. However, those that take up use of the new technology will be asked to leave a passport or driving license as security to ensure the return of the device.
According to AP, the pilot will continue to the end of the year, at which time the Vatican will make a decision as to whether the program will be rolled out to other basilicas in Rome.