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Jewish World Review March 2, 2001 / 7 Adar, 5761

Lisa Hoffman

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Consumer Reports

Patron Saint for the 'Net? -- WHEN computer hell strikes, e-mailers and other Web denizens soon may have another source of support - a divine one, at that.

A proposal to designate St. Isidore of Seville as the patron saint of the Internet is wending its way through the Vatican, and in some quarters speculation is growing that a decision is imminent.

"The Vatican is just about to name a patron saint for the Internet," the online publication Interactive Week wrote recently.

While the Holy See has no comment on the fate of the proposal, a formal request from unspecified Roman Catholics has been received by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, a church entity in the Vatican that rules on such patron saint requests.

St. Isidore was a sixth century Spanish monk, a scholar who spoke several languages and was considered the most learned man of his age.

His life's mission was to compile all human knowledge at the time, creating one of the world's first encyclopedias. Math, history, theology, medicine, grammar, birds, road-making, clothes - all were detailed in his 20-volume "Etymologies."

Catholic Web users in Europe began the campaign to adopt a patron saint for the Internet in 1999. For a time, another candidate, San Pedro Regalado, a 15th century Spanish priest famed for his supposed ability to appear in more than one place at the same time, was in the running.

But Isidore is now the leading candidate. There also is a push to broaden his mandate to include dominion over computers, and computer technicians and general users.

The Roman Catholic Church embraces scores of patron saints, many of whom assume such status by popular acclamation alone.

That means if enough people adopt a saint for a particular cause, the church essentially recognizes the will of the people, said David Early, spokesman for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, United States Catholic Conference.

On rare occasions, the pope names a patron saint. Pope John Paul II, for instance, made Edith Stein the patron saint of Europe in 1987.

The panoply of patron saints is vast. Michael the Archangel is the patron saint of banking, St. Stephen for the building trade, St. John the Baptist for highways, St. Ambrose for learning and St. Matthew for accountants.

Many saints perform double or more duty. In fact, Isidore already is the patron saint for photographers, motorcyclists and radiologists.

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