13 February 2019

February 12, 1931, the day Vatican Radio was born

On 12 February 88 years ago, the day after the anniversary of signing of the Lateran Pact, Pope Pius XI inaugurated the Vatican Radio.

Vatican Radio, which is the Pope’s radio, was officially inaugurated on 12th February, 1931, with Pope Pius XI delivering the first ever radio message by a Pope.  That was 2 years and a day after the birth of Vatican City State on February 11, 1929, following the signing of the Lateran Pacts between the Holy See and the Kingdom of Italy.  Just four days after the creation of Vatican City, Pope Pius XI officially commissioned the famous Italian-born radio pioneer, Guglielmo Marconi to build the radio station inside the new state.  The first signal that was sent out from Vatican Radio on Feb. 12, 1931, was however in Morse code.

A technician typed the words, In nomine Domini, Amen, the Latin for In the Name of the Lord, Amen!

It was just an alert message.  At that very instance radio stations, ships, and anyone who had a proper equipment received the preliminary message and readied themselves for the first ever papal radio message.  It fell to Guglielmo Marconi to introduce the message of the Pope.

Speaking in Italian, Marconi said: I have the highest honour of announcing that in only a matter of seconds the Supreme Pontiff, Pope Pius XI, will inaugurate the Radio Station of Vatican City State. The electric radio waves will carry to all the world his words of peace and blessing.

Then came Pope Pius XI.  The time was 4:49 p.m., Feb. 12, 1931.  

Pope Pius XI thus became the first Pontiff in history to address the world on the radio.  The rich text of the first papal radio message was written in Latin by Pius XI himself.  It was a universal pastoral message addressed to everyone – not just Catholics, but the separated brethren, "the dissidents," even non-believers, governments, the oppressed, the rich, the poor, the workers, the persecuted and the suffering, sharing the Church's message of peace and love and saying his prayers were with the entire  people of the world. 

In the service of 8 popes so far, Vatican Radio has grown phenomenally since it began 88 years ago when it was solely the Pope’s loudspeaker to the world.  Because of expansion in the programming sector and the subsequent increase in personnel, Vatican Radio in 1970 moved just outside of Vatican City to its present headquarters in Rome, in a building called Palazzo Pio. Following the Communications Reform of Pope Francis, Vatican Radio is now part of the Dicastery for Communication.


Photo Gallery of the inauguration of Vatican Radio