Vatican Radio celebrates 80 years

Source: FSSPX News

Vatican Radio first saw the light of day on February 12, 1931, two years after the Lateran Accords which gave birth to the Vatican City State.  Between the two world wars, Pius XI had entrusted to the Italian engineer Guglielmo Marconi, one of the inventors of the radio, the task of building a radio station.

The first broadcasts in French, the language of diplomacy, began with the inauguration of Vatican Radio.  Every Sunday the “pope’s radio” broadcast several articles from L’Osservatore Romano in French.  In 1939 the French broadcasts were scheduled daily, a fifteen-minute program.  Since 1983 there has been a twenty-minute daily “magazine” in French.

In 1939 Vatican Radio covered its first conclave and the first apostolic blessing of Pius XII, with commentary in nine languages.  During World War II, Vatican Radio enabled thousands of prisoners to keep in contact with their families.  Not long afterward, the Communist regimes behind the Iron Curtain tried to block broadcasting from Vatican City, but unsuccessfully.  During the visit of Paul VI to the Holy Land in 1964, the radio inaugurated its coverage of a long series of papal trips.  Today its administrative and technical director, the layman Alberto Gasbarri, is also the organizer of the pope’s travels.  Since its origins, Vatican Radio has been entrusted to the Society of Jesus.  The Jesuit priest Giuseppe Gianfranceschi, a physician and mathematician, was its first director.

The Vatican’s radio station today employs 355 people, more than 300 of whom are lay men and women of 60 different nationalities.  Between the technical investments and the salaries of the personnel, its annual cost amounts to almost 25 million Euros.

Every day Vatican Radio broadcasts around 66 hours of programming in 45 languages, including Russian and Chinese.  Its Internet site (www.radiovaticana.org) offers pages in 38 languages (using more than dozen different alphabets) and in the near future could offer pages in Hebrew and Korean as well.  The Internet makes it possible to listen to the radio programs live, but also to download them in the form of podcasts.  Recently the site has also been equipped with multimedia tools such as video.

The Vatican station is heard in far-off lands at the end of the planet thanks to its eight-channel satellites, its 39 shortwave and medium-high-frequency antennas, and around twenty retransmitters throughout the world, including some in Russia to reach China and Vietnam.  Since the late 1990’s Vatican Radio has made an particularly costly effort to equip itself with digital system to produce its programs.

The 80th anniversary of Vatican Radio is the occasion for several events, beginning with the opening in the Vatican Museums, on the evening of February 10, of an exposition retracing its history.  In late April, Rome will host the assembly of the European Union of Radio, which includes 75 radio networks in 56 countries.  In September a study on the history of the station will be published.  Vatican Radio is playing an increasingly large role in the communications of the Holy See and plays a pivotal role in the Internet portal that the Vatican intends to open soon.  The current director of Vatican communications, Fr. Federico Lombardi, combines the functions of the director of the Vatican Television Center and the director of the Press Office of the Holy See.  (Sources : apic/imedia/radiovatican – DICI no. 231 dated March 5, 2011)