This past weekend, as tourists milled around St. Peter’s Basilica, one of the holiest sites in the world, snapping selfies and experiencing Michelangelo’s art through their phone’s camera lens, 120 students sat in a 500-year-old palazzo a few hundred meters away, coding for 36 hours straight at the Vatican’s first-ever hackathon. This, it would seem, is the Holy See of the 21st century.
“When I heard about it, I thought it was a joke. Vatican, hackathon—it didn’t add up,” says John Franklin, a senior at Northwestern University who found out about last weekend’s VHacks while participating in another hackathon in 2017. It wasn’t until he saw the event’s themes—creating technological solutions for encouraging social inclusion, promoting interfaith dialogue, and providing resources to migrants and refugees—that he realized it was not only real, but something he wanted to take part in. “I thought, ‘This is unique,’” he says.
And, apart from [...]