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 CNS Story:

VATICANII-TECH Oct-12-2005 (400 words) With photos posted Oct. 11. xxxn

Vatican II was first council with modern technology

By Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The 1962-65 Second Vatican Council was the first in history to use electric lighting, telephones, tape recording, television and automated data processing.

When the First Vatican Council was held in 1869-70, none of those things had been invented.

According to the five-volume "History of Vatican II" edited by Giuseppe Alberigo and Father Joseph Komonchak, 42 floodlights were installed in St. Peter's Basilica along the top of the walls to provide the assembled bishops enough light for reading and writing. Table lamps were provided for the presidential council and secretariat.

Sound technicians installed 68 loudspeakers and 37 microphones -- 24 for council members and 13 for the pope, key council officials and, for liturgical events, the choir and the organ.

They also set up four tape recorders so that two would always be running. One tape went directly to the archives, the book says, while the other was used by the 15 priest-stenographers who took the minutes of each session. The priests had received special training in Latin shorthand before the council, but they soon found it inadequate and relied on the tapes to transcribe the proceedings.

Several television cameras were used to record important conciliar events for transmission around the world, and a small closed-circuit system allowed the pope to follow proceedings from his office.

The book says technicians put in a central telephone switchboard and 34 new phones for internal communications and upgraded the basilica's existing phone system to permit better outside communications.

"One of the factors that played a decisive part in determining the course and duration of the council was the management of the flood of information," the book says. For data processing the council used an Olivetti-Bull punch card system, using white cards for daily attendance records and green cards for council votes.

The data processing machines could tabulate the roughly 2,500 attendance cards in half an hour and could analyze a vote in about an hour, the book says. The system got its first major test in the first two weeks of the council, when the bishops elected members of the council commissions.

With a total of 160 slots on 10 commissions to be filled by elections, the bishops cast about 100,000 ballots in each of four successive meetings. For each day's voting it took about a day and a half for the machines to tally the results.

END


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