Vatican used Wikipedia for new cardinals' biographies

Pope Benedict leads Mass at the Vatican (6 January)
Image caption Pope Benedict (L) formally appointed the new cardinals on 6 January

The Vatican has acknowledged that it used Wikipedia to produce biographies of 22 new cardinals that were sent out to journalists.

The biographies were copied from the Italian version of the user-edited online encyclopedia, word for word in some cases, and without attribution.

One clue was that many new cardinals were described as being "Catholic".

The Vatican says it was trying to help journalists and warned them the biographies were "unofficial".

The names of the 22 new cardinals from around the world were announced by Pope Benedict on 6 January.

The similarity between the profiles of them handed out by the Vatican and their Wikipedia entries was spotted by the Italian journalist and blogger Sandro Magister.

In the kind of language not normally used by the Vatican, a Dutch archbishop, William Jacobus Eijk was described as being "one of the most talked about religious men in the country".

This was because of his "strong leaning towards conservatism, especially with regard to abortion and homosexuality," the biography said.

A Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said his staff had no advance notice of the names of the new cardinals and had been in a hurry.

Official biographies are now being put up on the website of the Holy See.

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