By Devin Watkins
Pope Pius XI inaugurated Vatican Radio on 12 February 1931 with the clear mission of carrying the voice of the Pope and the hope of the Gospel to every corner of the globe.
It was designed and set up by Guglielmo Marconi, who invented the first commercially-successful radio transmission system, and was entrusted to the Jesuit Order until 2017.
Now, 90 years later, Vatican Radio has expanded its operations to include radio transmissions in 41 languages.
To mark this major milestone, the broadcaster is also launching a reworked website and a web radio which will broadcast programming 24 hours a day.
Enduring mission of service
In a statement released on Tuesday, Vatican Radio’s directors praised the long-standing efforts of Vatican Radio, whose staff hail from 69 nations.
Dr. Paolo Ruffini, Prefect of the Dicastery for Communication, Vatican Radio’s parent organization, said the Radio is continually evolving while remaining rooted in its originality and identity.
“We celebrate this historic milestone with gratitude for all that has been done by those who have come before us,” he said, “and who looked toward the future at the same time.”
Vatican Radio, he pointed out, maintains its dedication to its original mission of “service to the Church, the Pope, and the human person wherever they may be, no matter what religion or culture they belong to.”
Strong roots, growing branches
Dr. Ruffini recalled the Radio’s proud history of transmitting the voice of the Pope to the world, despite the threats of World War II, fascism, and communism. He said the Radio is celebrating “the prospect of a missionary future founded on the gentle power of the spoken and heard word.”
Recalling that Vatican Radio became part of the Dicastery for Communication on 1 January 2017, Dr. Ruffini said the Radio forms “the strong roots on which the tree that is Vatican News is growing, the internet site that recounts the Church’s stories and Papal magisterium”.
He went on to announce the launch of a web radio, which will bring Vatican Radio to anyone with an internet connection in any part of the world.
Dr. Ruffini called it “another small step on the journey of the Dicastery for Communication that will see several of its entities celebrate important anniversaries (25 years of the website Vatican.va, December 2020; 160 years of the Osservatore Romano), as we look toward to building the future together.”
Anniversary in a pandemic
In the same statement, Massimiliano Menichetti, the Director of Vatican Radio, acknowledged that the 90th anniversary is being marked as humanity faces the trials imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Our mission has always been not to leave anyone behind and to bring the hope of the Christian proclamation, the voice of the Pope, and sound interpretation of events in the light of the Gospel,” he said. “So, this moment challenges us more than ever before.”
Dr. Menichetti said Vatican Radio has spent much effort over the last year to “collect and narrate stories of people helping people, of solidarity, of spirituality, as we show the face of the Church and every part of society which is building bridges—more often than not in silence.”
The Director of Vatican Radio also recalled the many changes the station has seen in recent years.
“The reform desired by the Pope,” said Dr. Menichetti, “has directed us toward a new dimension in which we are no longer solely a radio, but an integrated reality which is still evolving.”
“Vatican Radio’s personnel, who come from 69 nations,” he said, “are the reason why the Vatican News web portal was born, where articles, video, photos, audio, and social media can be found.”
Giacomo Ghisani, Legal Representative of Vatican Radio and a member of the Executive Board of the European Broadcasting Union, noted that the Pope’s Radio engages frequently with other broadcasters.
“This vast network of relations is also expressed through the partnerships that Vatican Radio has with many other radio stations—both Catholic and non-Catholic, regional and local—as well as with websites that broadcast the Radio’s language programs, thus allowing it to reach the most remote places with greater effectiveness,” he said.
The Web Radio of Vatican Radio will debut on 12 February in English, Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, and Armenian, at the website: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/epg.html.
Throughout the year, about 30 live program schedules will be created.
Vatican Radio currently transmits in 41 languages: Albanian, Amharic, Arabic, Armenian, Belarusian, Brasilian, Bulgarian, Czech, Chinese, Croatian, English, Esperanto, Ewondo, French, German, Hindi, Hungarian, Italian, Kikongo, Kinyarwanda, Kirundi, Latin, Latvian, Lingala, Lithuanian, Malagasy, Malayalam, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Slovenian, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, Tamil, Tigrinya, Tshiluba, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese.