Vatican uses Wikipedia
The Vatican's reputation as a font of knowledge was further boosted byt the election of Joseph Ratzinger, a former academic and prolific writer, as Pope in 2005. (REUTERS)

The Vatican has seemingly compromised its reputation as a font of knowledge after admitting that it resorted to using Wikipedia in order to compile biographies for 22 new cardinals.

The biographies, sent to journalists, were cut and pasted from the Italian language site of the online Encyclopaedia without attribution. Questions were raised when it was noted that many of the archbishops were described as "Catholic," reports the Guardian.

Willem Jacobus Eijk, the archbishop of Utrecht, was described as having a "strong tendency to conservatism, specially regarding abortion and homosexuality, which has made him one of the most talked about religious men in the country" - not exactly the sort of wording expected from the world seat of the Roman Catholic religion.

This from an institution housing more than 180,000 manuscripts and 1.6m books, and once described as "one of the most important research centres in the world."

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi has pointed out that the decision to use Wikipedia was a temporary measure driven by haste, and that the biographies were carefully labelled as "unofficial."

"Since then we have been putting up official bios on our site," he added.

Pope Benedict appointed 22 new cardinals to the College of Cardinals last week. They will be formally recognised at a ceremony next month. The 125 cardinals in total will be responsible for choosing the Pope's successor.