Vatican's Web Page Stood Up to Heavy Traffic

Internet Equipment Updated to Handle Historic Events

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 27, 2005 ( The Holy See’s Web page has succeeded in coping with the unprecedented interest in Pope John Paul II’s illness, death and funeral, the conclave, and Benedict XVI’s election.

According to Global Language Monitor, interest in John Paul II’s death far surpassed that of other events such as the December tsunami in southern Asia; the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks; and the deaths of Ronald Reagan and Princess Diana.

The greatest impact on Internet was registered by the Vatican’s official site (

Legionary of Christ Father Fernando Vérgez, director of the Holy See’s Internet Office, explained in an interview with ZENIT that the Vatican Web page is among the 100 most-visited sites worldwide, in general in 80th place. But on April 14, it was in 16th place, and more recently it has been in 12th.

John Paul II’s funeral Mass on April 8 was followed on the Holy See’s Web page by 1.3 million people, said Father Vérgez as he displayed graphs and statistics on his office table.

The election announcement and inauguration Mass of Benedict XVI had close to 2 million visitors.

To handle the heavy Web traffic, the Internet Office had to reinforce its equipment. Usually, the Web page’s transmission band is of 34 megabytes per second. As of March 31 the line was increased to 538 megabytes per second. At the same time, the number of servers increased to 18 from two.

The most visits during John Paul II’s funeral came from Italy. California (in the Statistics Office, each U.S. state appears as a country) was second, followed by Spain, the United Kingdom, Germany and Lithuania. Visits from China outnumbered those from New York or New Jersey.

From April 1-8, the Holy See’s Internet Office had to guarantee 24-hour service. Some staffers spent day and night in the office to update the page, monitor the traffic, and avoid the collapse of the line.

In those days, virtually all the Italy-based Web pages covering the event collapsed. The Vatican’s page held up.

The Holy See’s success was due to unexpected allies. In John Paul II’s last days, a telecommunications company realized that the Vatican Web page was beginning to have problems due to the excess of traffic. It immediately made available, and for free, a broad band to handle the Web traffic.

Technicians from several companies volunteered to help the Vatican technicians cope.

The technicians had to get permission from their executives. Father Vérgez displayed two letters that granted the permissions to the technicians to work without pay as a gesture of support for John Paul II.

Thanks to the Vatican Web page, it was possible to follow through a camera of the Vatican Television Center the procession of hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who arrived at St. Peter’s Basilica to view the Pope’s body and pay their last respects.

Visits to the Vatican Web page increased excessively, using 266 megabytes, when white smoke rose from the Sistine Chapel. According to the technicians, in those moments a user, say, in Sydney, Australia, took only 6 seconds to connect to the video.

Another challenge the Holy See’s Internet Office has had to face is the e-mail sent both to John Paul II, during his last days, as well as to Benedict XVI.

About 100,000 messages already have been received at the new Pope’s e-mail address.

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