VATICAN CITY (AP) -- In a joint press conference
in St. Peter's Square this morning, MICROSOFT
Corp. and the Vatican announced that the Redmond
software giant will acquire the Roman Catholic
Church in exchange for an unspecified number
of shares of MICROSOFT common stock. If the
deal goes through, it will be the first time
a computer software company has acquired a
major world religion.
With the acquisition, Pope John Paul II will
become the senior vice-president of the combined
company's new Religious Software Division,
while MICROSOFT senior vice-presidents Michael
Maples and Steven Ballmer will be invested
in the College of Cardinals, said MICROSOFT
Chairman Bill Gates.
"We expect a lot of growth in the religious
market in the next five to ten years,"
said Gates. "The combined resources of
MICROSOFT and the Catholic Church will allow
us to make religion easier and more fun for
a broader range of people."
Through the MICROSOFT Network, the company's
new on-line service, "we will make the
sacraments available on-line for the first
time" and revive the popular pre-Counter-Reformation
practice of selling indulgences, said Gates.
"You can get Communion, confess your
sins, receive absolution-even reduce your
time in Purgatory-all without leaving your
A new software application, MICROSOFT Church,
will include a macro language which you can
program to download heavenly graces automatically
while you are away from your computer.
An estimated 17,000 people attended the announcement
in St Peter's Square, watching on a 60-foot
screen as comedian Don Novello-in character
as Father Guido Sarducci-hosted the event,
which was broadcast by satellite to 700 sites
Pope John Paul II said little during the announcement.
When Novello chided Gates, "Now I guess
you get to wear one of these pointy hats,"
the crowd roared, but the pontiff's smile
The deal grants MICROSOFT exclusive electronic
rights to the Bible and the Vatican's prized
art collection, which includes works by such
masters as Michelangelo and Da Vinci. But
critics say MICROSOFT will face stiff challenges
if it attempts to limit competitors' access
to these key intellectual properties.
"The Jewish people invented the look
and feel of the holy scriptures," said
Rabbi David Gottschalk of Philadelphia. "You
take the parting of the Red Sea-we had that
thousands of years before the Catholics came
on the scene."
But others argue that the Catholic and Jewish
faiths both draw on a common Abrahamic heritage.
"The Catholic Church has just been more
successful in marketing it to a larger audience,"
notes Notre Dame theologian Father Kenneth
Madigan. Over the last 2,000 years, the Catholic
Church's market share has increased dramatically,
while Judaism, which was the first to offer
many of the concepts now touted by Christianity,
Historically, the Church has a reputation
as an aggressive competitor, leading crusades
to pressure people to upgrade to Catholicism,
and entering into exclusive licensing arrangements
in various kingdoms whereby all subjects were
instilled with Catholicism, whether or not
they planned to use it. Today Christianity
is available from several denominations, but
the Catholic version is still the most widely
used. The Church's mission is to reach "the
four corners of the earth," echoing MICROSOFT's
vision of "a computer on every desktop
and in every home".
Gates described MICROSOFT's long-term strategy
to develop a scalable religious architecture
that will support all religions through emulation.
A single core religion will be offered with
a choice of interfaces according to the religion
desired-"One religion, a couple of different
implementations," said Gates.
The MICROSOFT move could spark a wave of mergers
and acquisitions, according to Herb Peters,
a spokesman for the U.S. Southern Baptist
Conference, as other churches scramble to
strengthen their position in the increasingly
competitive religious market.
Copyright © 1994 Knight-Ridder / Tribune
Received via NewsEDGE from Desktop Data, Inc.:
RAI INVESTS $125
MILLION IN MICROSOFT NETWORK
VATICAN CITY-A division of Italian television
giant RAI said Wednesday it has invested
$125 million for a 20 percent stake in Microsoft
Corp.'s planned on-line computer service,
The Microsoft Divine Network.
The investment lays the groundwork for delivering
planned on-line religious services to personal
computers over television cable, which will
allow much faster and richer transmission
of data such as sound clips and video than
is permitted today over regular telephone
"We are big believers in connecting
PCs to cable for on-line because
it gives us more bandwidth to do new kinds
of applications using audio and video,"
said Ziggy Mann, general manager of the
Microsoft on-line services group.
Under the agreement, RAI's Vatican Technology
Ventures has made an all-stock investment
in the newly formed Microsoft Online Church
Partnership, which will hold the assets
and cash flow of the planned on-line service.
The service was announced in November and
is expected to be launched next year as
an optional feature (Microsoft Church) of
the Windows 95 operating system, which now
is expected to be available in August 1995.
The service will be offered at first over
telephone lines, but Don Novello, senior
vice president of the RAI-Vatican technology
unit, said by 1996, some on-line services
likely will be delivered over cable as cable
modems and other equipment are perfected.
While RAI would market and distribute the
service to the 20 million households, the
relationship would not be exclusive and
the cable provider would offer connections
to any on-line services available and requested
by its customers, Novello said.
America OnLine, Compuserve and other on-line
service providers have been testing the
possibility of delivering their services
over cable rather than telephone lines.
The partership announced Wednesday, which
long had been rumored, is one of several
between RAI and Microsoft.
The two companies also are about to begin
a small-scale test of interactive television
services broadcasting from the Vatican,
and have announced plans to develop a cable
television channel focused on computing,
which Novello said will be launched next
Rob Goldman, an analyst at Imperiale Shwain,
said the latest agreement was strategically
important to both companies and signaled
an increasing convergence of media on the
"I think it is very strategic for Microsoft
to try to leverage their investment in an
on-line service to be able to offer it to
RAI's 20 million households," he said.
"Ultimately you ought to able to access
this through your television and not just
your personal computer. Having the same
on-line service connected to (both) would
be a very powerful thing."
Executives of the two companies did not
provide details on how they arrived at a
figure that values The Microsoft Divine
Network at $625 million even though it likely
won't begin operation until August.
"We negotiated a fair valuation based
on what we know today," Novello said
in a Vatican conference call with reporters
Mann said Microsoft had no current plans
to take on additional equity
partners in the on-line business, "but
if the right deal or right partner came
along we'd be open to that."
POPE CELEBRATES CHRISTMAS
MASS ON THE INFORMATION SUPERHIGHWAY
John Paul II led the world's 960 million
Roman Catholics in Christmas celebrations
Sunday at a midnight mass that included
prayers and praise for technology and the
More than 10,000 people, including members
of the Vatican Technology group, crowded
into St. Peter's Basilica, Christendom's
largest church, for the traditional sung
mass broadcast live around the world.
They were joined on the information superhighway
by a select number of subscribers to the
Microsoft Divine Network pilot, a recently
formed joint venture between the Redmond
giant and the italian RAI cable communication
As is customary with the Christmas midnight
mass, the pope's homily centered on the
Biblical story of the birth of Jesus.
The pope usually reserves his most powerful
comments on world events for his Christmas
Day "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city
and the world) blessing and message from
the central balcony of the Basilica.
"During the night of the Lord's birth,
the shepherds guarding their flock in the
fields round Bethlehem heard the words inviting
them to go to the place where the Child
was laid," the 74-year-old pope said
during the homily.
"An angel said to them, 'Behold, I
bring you good news of great joy
which will come to all the people; for to
you is born this day in the
City of David a Savior, who is Christ the
"The shepherds of Bethlehem are thus
able to realize that the way of
salvation passes through the family. We
too have been able to realize
this truth once more during this year that
is about to end...this year
has been the year of technology for the
The pope has often spoken this year in favor
of the traditional family and against what
he says is a frontal assault on its values
by the technological revolution, and praised
Microsoft's Christian initiative to end
He has repeatedly called on families to
fight what he says are their greatest enemies
on the information superhighway: "mushrooming
sex-crazed user groups, pedofiles, gay and
lesbian militants, perverted adult stories",
which the Pontiff credited to the work of
The pope, looking healthy and alert, wore
vestments of gold and white to symbolize
the message of joy and hope brought into
the world with Christ's birth in Bethlehem,
complemented by a discrete gold pin bearing
the embossed logo of the new Microsoft Divine
He also said during the electronically transmitted
homily that he had not forgotten those who
were suffering behind their screens.
"We find ... happiness in the songs
which from midnight tonight are heard here
in St. Peter's Basilica and throughout the
world, thanks to the marvels of technology"
"They are heard even in the midst of
censorship, as can be confirmed by those
experiencing interdictions to access religious
services... in other places where people
have suffered or continue to suffer. Joy
at the birth of the son of God is greater
The Polish pope is celebrating his 17th
Christmas season as the Roman Catholic Church's
supreme leader since his election in October
1978. The electronic broadcast was the first
time a pope reached out to the information
superhighway's virtual crowd.
Traditionally, tens of thousands of people
flock to St. Peter's Square
on Christmas Day to listen to the "Urbi
et Orbi" message and hear the
pope wish the world holiday greetings in
more than 50 languages.
For the first time in history this year,
a select number of subscribers
to the Microsoft Divine Network pilot were
able to enjoy the Pontiff's
message from behind their computer screens.
From: Newswire Mailing
To: IS Daily News Services for Executives
Cc: Newswire Mailing
Subject: IBM Raises Ante in Religious Software
Date: Thursday, 12/1/94
For Immediate Release
The Chairman of IBM announced today that,
in response to
Microsoft Corp.'s acquisition of the Roman
Catholic Church, IBM has bid for and acquired
the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United
States of America for $1 billion.
"We are the oldest and most prestigeous
computer company in
the world," he said, "and we cannot
be seen to be lagging behind in
the race for preeminence in the religious
software and hardware markets. We have tendered
an offer to the Most. Rev. Edmund Browning,
Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church
and Pamela Chinnis, President of the House
of Deputies of General Convention, and they
have recommended acceptance to the shareholders
The Episcopal Church is one of the oldest
and most respected denominations in the
United States. Many current and former officeholders,
including many Presidents, have been communicants.
Although its membership was declining in
recent years, the latest
figures show a slight increase in membership.
A combination with
IBM will probably be beneficial in terms
of putting "fannies in the
seats" in Episcopal Churches across
the United States.
There will also be great benefits to IBM
in terms of international connections through
the Episcopal Church. The Church is one
of the most senior members of the international
Anglican communion by way of its separation
from the Church of England after the Revolutionary
War and the consecration in 1784 of its
first Bishop, Samuel Seabury. IBM hopes
to gain a foothold in the international
religious business through these connections,
and perhaps tender a bid for the entire
Anglican Communion by the time of the next
meeting of the world Anglican bishops in
London in 1998 (Lambeth Conference). The
Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey,
was unreachable for comment.
IBM and Episcopal Church are "good
fit" IBM has had the distinction of
being the first and, up until several years
ago, the most successful computer company
in the world. It was founded by Herman Hollerith,
the inventor of the computer card, in the
late 1800, and concentrated on business
machines such as adding machines and typewriters
until the invention of the computer in the
1940. They invested heavily in this new
technology, and became rich from selling
and maintaining them in the 1950's through
However, IBM's stodgy corporate culture
prevented it from
taking advantage of newer technology. It
almost entirely missed the
value of personal computer technology in
the late 1970's, allowing other companies
to use processes it developed to make so-called
"clone" personal computers. It
therefore lost out on billions of dollars
spent on this technology over the past 15
IBM has recently spun off its typewriter
and printer businesses and concentrated
on PC building and software, and has even
resorted to layoffs for the first time in
its history. The slogan, "No one was
ever fired for buying IBM" has become
a bitter joke in the business world.
The Episcopal Church was, for a long time,
considered the most
successful of the Protestant Churches in
terms of wealth and power. Many of the rich
and famous swelled its numbers, and its
liturgy was noted for its archaic beauty
as much as its treasury was noted for its
However, in recent years, with the dying-off
of the elderly rich and the fall in the
birth rate among the bluebloods who remained,
the Episcopal Church has suffered both a
decline in numbers and in influence and
wealth. Notwithstanding the slogan, "The
Episcopal Church Welcomes You," numbers
have only recently begun to increase again
as the Church begins to be seen as a place
where outcasts can take part in its life.
Along with IBM, the Episcopal Church has
had to resort to layoffs to balance its
budget, and the merger will allow both organizations
to trim even further their personnel costs.
IBM's chairman said today, "We have
been known as the place
where the white-coated mystics take charge
of computers in sealed
rooms. As a direct result of this merger,
our white-coated mystic
roster will be cut by half and merged with
the ordained ministry of
the Episcopal Church. After all, they also
wear white garments when
celebrating their mysteries. The similarities
outweigh the differences, and we think that
we can bring their white-suited mystics
up to speed in JCL and C++ within a few
The Presiding Bishop and Ms. Chinnis issued
a joint statement saying: "We welcome
this merger as a meshing of two great but
sometimes old-fashioned institutions. The
merger will allow us to cut our technical
staff by half again, and concentrate our
resources on becoming the largest and most
successful Protestant Church in the United
States. Our first IBM mainframe is already
being installed in the basement of 816 Second
Avenue, Church Headquarters in New York."
They continued: "So that we can assure
ourselves that the
Apostolic Succession will be continued,
the Bishops of the
Episcopal Church will lay hands on the Board
of IBM in a ceremony
at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine
in New York City. Then, the
entire House of Bishops will travel up to
Armonk, where they will be instructed in
the use of the personal computer."
The business writers of most US newspapers
will join the religion correspondents in
recording this momentous occasion. Both
the business and the religious communities
are awaiting the new developments that this
historic merger will make possible.
His Eminence, Bill Gates, had no comment.
Copyright © 1994 Christian P. Hansen