Citing the ‘miraculous advent’ rise of technology throughout the world, Pope Francis I announced Friday morning a staggering $1 billion plan to attract the best startups throughout the world to a new 10,000-sq-ft co-working space to be built in the heart of St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City. The plan is part of the Vatican’s efforts to market itself as a viable go-to destination for entrepreneurs and bring the Catholic Church into the 21st century.
Known as “Catholicism Wow 2.0,” the Pope announced the project at a press conference at TEDxVatican. The swanky new space will also offer a fully-stocked food court with open office space, a new section of the Vatican library, water slides, and a visual-entertainment center with twice-daily screenings of Ben Hur.
“We know what the youth want and what they need. We want to foster the future here. They think of us as a passe, archaic institution. We’re appointing this as a time of renewal, both of faith and of style. We’ve committed to that,” Cardinal Edward Gabriel, the Vatican’s new Minister of Technology, told Geektime. He described a coalition of major technology companies and local investors like Cardinal Ventures, which hopes to pivot the Vatican economy from one of tourism and donations to one of new ideas, mobile apps and basin water technologies (‘baptech’). “With investments from Google, Microsoft, and finally Cardinal Ventures’ Vatican II Fund of Funds, we can only see a bright future for innovation at the heart of the church and among its flock.”
The project was first conceived of by their head of development, Cardinal William Mary. The Church says this will be its absolution for neglecting the technology sector for so long, especially as other Catholic countries like Chile, Mexico, Brazil and Spain have made major inroads in developing their local startup ecosystems. The idea has been developing for some time, but Pope Francis I wanted to bring much of the old guard on board before opening up Vatican City for its biggest construction project since Michaelangelo painted the Basilica.
“There was a huge debate about the aesthetics of the new office space. But in the end, everyone agreed that if we wanted to bring Catholicism into the 21st century, we needed to go big or go home,” said Cardinal Gabriel.
The project was born only recently after Gabriel visited Mary late one night and announced to her that the new Ministry would be born sometime in the next year. But Mary says that it definitely would not have passed muster had the Pope not been so keen on making the Vatican influential in the modern world. That has led to other initiatives to make connection to the Church easier, like the new papal program for digital baptisms to register people as e-Catholics, integrating more big data and analytics into new smart churches (including purity tests for holy water at the entrance and an app to give churchgoers immediate nutritional information about eucharists).
The new space will also host the Vatican’s first fully-fledged accelerators † Combinator and 500 Franciscans. A few startups have already registered for desk space, including Trinitech, gaming startup Deacon Arts, Jesuit.io and VR/AR startup Vatican3D.
Starbucks will also open the first branch of its new Catholic-geared chain, “Capuccinorum.”
*Note of disclosure: Unfortunately, this is an April Fools’ Day joke. Every aspect of this story is false. Gotcha!