Members of the amorphous hacking group Anonymous claimed yesterday to have taken down the Vatican website to protest everything from Catholic doctrine to the sexual abuse of children.
The site, www.vatican.va, was inaccessible for much of yesterday afternoon and evening.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev Federico Lombardi, confirmed the attack but declined to comment on its possible source.
He said he didn't know how long it would take the Vatican's technicians to bring the site back up.
In what claims to be the 'official' site of Anonymous in Italy, a statement posted yesterday said the group was attacking the Vatican to protest the execution of heretics and the burning of books during the Inquisition and, more recently, the sexual abuse of children by priests.
Statements purportedly authored by members of Anonymous are almost impossible to verify, given the leaderless nature of the group.
In August, the website of World Youth Day, the Catholic youth festival that was underway in Madrid, Spain, was attacked by hackers as Pope Benedict XVI arrived to take part.