VATICAN CITY — The Vatican doesn’t hold back when it celebrates today’s feast day of St. Francis de Sales — patron saint of journalists and writers.
The Vatican press hall held an impromptu party serving spumante, chocolates and Italian panettone cake, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications held a special Mass for journalists, and then the Vatican released Pope Benedict’s message for World Communications Day.
The pontifical council even made a surprise unveiling of its more colorful, revamped website: pccsva.org.
During the midday news conference presenting the pope’s message, the communications council’s president, Archbishop Claudio Celli presented some of the latest stats on the Vatican’s news portal news.va. The online site that aggregates all the Vatican’s news content was launched last June with the first ever papal tweet.
The archbishop said they are pleased with the growing popularity of the news site, which on average draws between 8,000 to 10,000 hits a day. Peak periods like on Christmas saw 16,000 hits in one day, he said.
People from some 180 countries are visiting the site with the United States topping the list: about 27 percent of all visitors are connecting from the USA, followed by Italy, Germany, Spain, Canada and Brazil.
The site is also relatively “sticky” with people remaining on the site about two minutes on average. About 53 percent of their traffic is made up of unique visitors while 47 percent are regulars, he said.
Something that was surprising, he said, was how much traffic was being generated by social networks. The majority of visitors — 65 percent — came to the site via Facebook when readers shared a story featured on the site.
The PCCS doesn’t have its own Facebook page, but it does have a Twitter feed @PCCS_VA with more than 2,000 followers. Twitter generates about 30 percent of the traffic to the news.va site, he said.
Currently, the site is offered in English, Spanish and Italian, and by the summer it also will be in French and Portuguese.
With the many language options, some translations seem to slip through the cracks. Like this latest story about a French bishop who does homily tweets: the Italian story was headlined in English “When a bishop chirps.” If he had been a cardinal, that might have been more believable!