Dot Catholic Domain Registration
Payments from the Vatican Secretariat of State to the Australian office of a tech security company could have been used to register a top level domain name, according to an Italian media report.But that possibility raises questions about why Cardinal Angelo Becciu previously described payments to the company as “confidential,” and why a key witness in the current Vatican financial trial reportedly told prosecutors that the payments were for the legal defense of Cardinal George Pell.
The payments, described as “classified” by Cardinal Angelo Becciu, have been at the center of years of speculation, since they coincided with the prosecution and trial of Cardinal George Pell.
A report published by the Italian edition of the website Daily Compass claims that payments from the Secretariat of State, totaling more that 2 million Australian dollars, were for the registration of the top level domain “.catholic” by the Pontifical Council for Social Communication.
Daily Compass cites a 2012 letter from the then-secretary of the Australian bishops’ conference to the-then secretary of the Vatican’s communications office, offering “support” for the Vatican plan “to acquire the generic top level domain,” which was filed with ICANN, the U.S.-based international organization responsible for internet domain names and registration.
Similar letters were filed by the bishops’ conferences Italy and the United States, and the Secretariat of State, according to a domain registration application file reviewed by The Pillar.
The application file also lists a wholly owned subsidiary company of AusRegistry Pty Ltd as the service provider at the time of the application. AusRegistry was also the registry operator and wholesale provider for all commercial “.au” domain names, as well as non-commercial Australian domains like “.gov.au” and “.edu.au”.
AusRegistry’s own parent company, Bombora Technologies, was acquired by Neustar, a technology and security company, in 2015. Neustar has separately featured in court documents related to an ongoing federal investigation into allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.
Between 2016-17, the Secretariat of State sent wire transfers amounting to more than 2 million Australian dollars to Neustar’s office in Melbourne. The Daily Compass report suggests those funds were used to cover the expenses of maintaining the .catholic domain in both English and Chinese, although ICANN filings for the domain do not include specific receipts or other documents which would confirm that possibility.