The Vatican is getting closer to naming Isidore of Seville as the patron saint of the Internet. The decision is being discussed as the Roman Catholic Church prepares a document on "ethics and the Internet."

The final decision on the patron saint will be made by Pope John Paul II, though the Vatican has not yet announced when that will happen. The choice will be only a small part of the Catholic Church's consideration of the Internet, which is a subject of deep concern for the church because of moral problems raised by instant world-wide communication available through the Internet, and especially its abuse by pornographers.

A man of wide knowledge, Isidore, one of the church's leading intellectuals, was born sometime between 560 and 570, eventually becoming bishop of Seville, in Spain. His name was well known to scholars of the medieval church. But most contemporary Catholics were unaware of Isidore until 1999, when he was named as a possible patron saint for the Internet.

The proposal was made by an organization called Internet Observation Services (SOI) after it was asked by the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Social Communications to suggest a saint who could serve as guide and protector to millions of computer operators and "cybernauts"—addicts of the Internet—around the world.

SOI declared that Isidore was the most suitable saint for the role. For many centuries, he was considered as a man ahead of his time. He wrote a form of dictionary, called Etymologies, with a structure similar to what is now called a database. Like the World Wide Web, Etymologies put at the disposal of its readers massive amounts of knowledge. An encyclopedia in 20 volumes, it contained information on the seven liberal arts, and subjects such as ...

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