BY MARK GREAVES
THE ARCHDIOCESE of Westminster has launched an interactive map on the intemet that enables people to search for their nearest Catholic school or church.
The "virtual diocese", as it is known, combines the Google Maps tool with data from the Westminster diocese and may soon be extended to mobile phones as well as the web.
Each church, school or diocesan event is represented by a coloured icon on the map, and users can click through to parish or school websites for more details.
The virtual diocese has been created partly in preparation for the Olympic Games, when many thousands of foreign Catholics will be staying in the nation's capital. Auxiliary Bishop John Arnold of Westminster said: "Up to now, the main way for people to find information about Catholic churches or schools in the Diocese of Westminster has been to look through an alphabetical list.
"Our new virtual diocese makes full use of new technology to help Catholics new to London or tourists to find their nearest Catholic church and local Catholic schools. London is increasingly a destination for Catholic migrants from around the world, and many hundreds of thousands of the visitors to the 2012 Olympic Games will be Catholics. It is therefore important to make it as easy as possible for people to find where they can attend Mass in the capital city."