In the New Testament, Jesus tells St. Peter to be a fisher of men. Now his successor plans to cast a 'Net that will encircle the world.
When Pope John Paul II celebrates Mass at Camden Yards Oct. 8, his words will be carried live to thousands of computer users all over the world via the Internet's World Wide Web.
The Baltimore broadcast will be part of what apparently is the first news event that will be covered with a live video and audio transmission over the worldwide Internet, according to Catholic Net.
The church-affiliated on-line service plans to announce its PopeTV service this morning at a news conference in New York.
One of the key players in developing the technology making it possible is Baltimore-based Husky Labs, which did the systems integration and much of the programming for the project.
Roman Anderson, project director for Catholic Net, said the Camden Yards program will be the culmination of five days of Internet coverage of the papal visit, which will begin Oct. 4 in Newark, N.J.
Gordon G. Miller III, director of the Multimedia Lab at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., said others have sent audio and video streams over the Internet, but he added that the papal coverage was nevertheless significant.
"This is perhaps the first time that a public event has had the chance to really put this technology out in front of the public," Mr. Miller said.
"You wouldn't expect that an institution as old as the Catholic Church to be on the cutting edge technologically," he said.
That, said Mr. Anderson, is the point of the exercise.
"Just because the church is traditional and has certain items of its beliefs that are never-changing doesn't mean the church is obsolete," he said.
The transmission will not make full broadcast-quality television available to the average Internet user, said Husky Labs President David Levine. Full-motion video will require a specialized, high-capacity telephone line. Computer users with high-speed modems will be able to listen to good-quality audio in real time, he said.
Mr. Anderson said the technology used to deliver the feed is the product of a partnership between Husky Labs and Xing Technology Corp. of Arroyo Grande, Calif.
Mr. Levine said he and Xing President Howard Gordon had already been working on adapting radio and television feeds for Internet use when Catholic Net approached Mr. Gordon about six months ago.
Mr. Levine said they decided to peg the rollout to the papal visit because "it seemed like a good time to give this technology a professional shakedown." He said Husky Labs, which is donating its services for the papal visit, will conduct its first public *T demonstration of the system Oct. 2 at the Greater Baltimore Committee's Technology Dinner.
The Husky Labs founder said he expects "a few thousand" Internet users to watch and listen to the coverage of the papal visit.
Catholic Net is run by the Path to Peace Foundation, an extension to the Vatican's mission to the United Nations in New York. Mr. Anderson said he expects PopeTV to cover future papal travels via Internet, as well as Sunday addresses and holiday messages.
Pope on the 'Net
Computer users who want to receive coverage of the papal visit over Catholic Net will need a computer with at least a 486-series processor and 8 megabytes of random access memory. For audio, they will also need a modem with at least 9600-baud speed, although 14,400-baud speed is recommended for good quality.
To receive video transmission of changing still images, a 14,400-baud or 28,800-baud modem is required. Motion video at 12 frames a second will be available over ISDN lines, while a fiber-optic T-1 connection will be needed to receive movie-quality video.
Users will also need an account with an Internet access provider. Those who sign on to PopeTV on the Internet (http://www.catholic.net/pope) will be able to download the software needed to connect at various speeds.