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Visit churches on line with Google street view

Tuesday 16 February 2016, by SIGNIS

Mexico City, Brussels, February 16th, 2016 (CNA/SIGNIS). A virtual pilgrimage for Pope Francis’ trip now offers a new street-view perspective of key sites and churches. The project is thanks to a partnership between the Archdiocese of Mexico and tech giant Google.

Miguel Alva, the director of marketing for Google in Mexico, explained the project. “When we started looking at key messages from Pope Francis throughout the entire term that he’s been serving, we saw a lot about opening the doors of the Church,” he told CNA. “So we started doing a project with street view, using street view technology to capture about 80 different churches in Mexico.”

Alva has worked closely alongside the Archdiocese of Mexico to prepare for Pope Francis’ Feb. 12-17 visit. Once the Pope made the official announcement of his visit during Mass on the Dec. 12 feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Google immediately received a letter from Cardinal Norberto Rivera, archbishop of Mexico. The cardinal asked for help to make the visit go viral.

The local Church made it a priority to reach a new audience, specifically the youth, “who are basically online and not necessarily on traditional media.” “So we went back and started giving some advice on their website, making it fully mobile and also including some of our platforms to make this visit better for any user,” he continued.
The Google team was given special access to places that are normally closed to the public, and now, these places are available online to people all over the world. Viewers can take a virtual walk through the entire complex of Tepeyac, and go straight “to the feet of the Virgin, having that moment to reflect and to pray with the Virgin.”

Francis himself visited the Guadalupe shrine on Saturday. He has said many times that the primary reason he is traveling to Mexico is to visit the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, miraculously imprinted on the tilma of St. Juan Diego 470 years ago.
Google Calendar users can schedule the Pope’s entire agenda in Mexico into their own calendar. They can set reminders on their phone or computer to alert them of the activities they don’t want to miss.

Additionally, Google Maps has laid out all the routes Pope Francis is set to take while on the ground. This will allow those who want to see the Pope the ability to find him. For those who want to avoid the crowds, the maps offer detour routes.

One of the perks of the new street view tour is that pilgrims can also follow the path of participants in the Jubilee of Mercy. They can virtually pass through the Holy Doors at the entrance of the cathedral of Mexico City and the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Alva said that so far, Google’s traffic in Spanish has jumped during the Pope’s visit. Traffic increases are seen primarily in Mexico, Latin America, Spain and among Hispanics in the U.S.

While the official website for the Pope’s visit is only available in Spanish, people from 123 countries have accessed it.

This isn’t the first time the Catholic Church – or the Vatican – have partnered with Google for a project. In fact, last year Pope Francis participated in a Feb. 5, 2015, Google Hangout session with seven special needs youth from around the world.

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