As of early 2017, the name, the term, the words “Vatican Radio” were to be strictly confined to “Radio Vaticana Italia” as this was part of a Vatican communications reorganization that was to be Italian-centric, at least in the beginning. Those of us in communications were enjoined not to use the name Vatican Radio unless we were referring to the Italian language radio.
I wrote a column about “the death of a radio” last March and received an incredible number of emails with people expressing condolences, disappointment, and delusion. https://joansrome.wordpress.com/2018/03/23/for-whom-the-bell-tolls-the-death-of-a-radio/
Today, as you will see below, I offer excerpts from a Vatican Radio report on the 65th anniversary of the inauguration of the radio. It is a fascinating, colorful read for sure, yet sad at the same time in light of the communications reforms. The most popular programs, for example, for the major language at Vatican radio were always the feature programs and it is those programs that basically died a year ago.
The story I offer below would have been typical of what the radio referred to as a “feature program.” I can just hear the voice of a reporter reading this account, the dramatic, yet historic recounting of the birth of a radio. Feature programs – the true art of storytelling!
If you want news a la radio, then scroll down to the bottom of the vaticannews.va website, click on “podcasts” and listen to a selection of language news programs.
POPE FRANCIS WILL VISIT THE ITALIAN CITY OF NAPLES ON JUNE 21ST to take part in a meeting on “Theology after Veritatis Gaudium in the Mediterranean context.” He is scheduled to arrive around 9 AM and will be welcomed by Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, archbishop of Naples, Bishop Francesco Marino of Nola, and Fr. Arturo Sosa, Jesuit Superior General. Francis will address participants in the conference that is being hosted by the San Luigi section of the Pontifical Theological Faculty of Southern Italy. The Pope is set to return to the Vatican early in the afternoon. He previously visited Naples in March 2015.
TO UNDERLINE HIS CONSTANT ATTENTION TO WELCOMING MIGRANTS, on Friday February 15, at 4.00 pm at the Fraternal Domus of Sacrofano (Rome), Pope Francis will preside the Eucharistic Celebration that opens the “Free from Fear” meeting on the realities of welcoming and receiving migrants organized by the Migrantes Foundation, by Italian Caritas and by the Centro Astalli. The three-day meeting starts February 15, 2019. The visit will have a private character, so the presence of journalists and communication operators is excluded. Vatican television will supervise the live broadcast of this event.
TODAY, FEBRUARY 12, MARKS THE 88TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE INAUGURATION OF VATICAN RADIO on Thursday February 12, 1931. Pope Pius XI transmitted the first radio message in Latin in the presence of Guglielmo Marconi, inventor of the radio and creator of Vatican Radio, and Fr. Giuseppe Gianfranceschi S.I., first director of the radio.
VATICAN RADIO INAUGURATED 88 YEARS AGO
On February 12, 1931, the Marquis Guglielmo Marconi spoke these historical words:
“I have the highest honor of announcing that in only a matter of seconds the Supreme Pontiff, Pope Pius XI, will inaugurate the Radio Station of the Vatican City State. The electric radio waves will transport to all the world his words of peace and blessing. With the help of Almighty God, who allows the many mysterious forces of nature to be used by man, I have been able to prepare this instrument which will accord to the Faithful of all the world the consolation of hearing the voice of the Holy Father. Most Holy Father, the work that Your Holiness has deigned to entrust to me, I, today return to You…may you deign, Holy Father, to allow the entire world to hear your august words.”
It is exactly 4:49 p.m. on the Twelfth of February, Nineteen Thirty-One.
The rich text of the first radio message was written in Latin by Pius XI himself. The Pope imbued his message with passages from the Sacred Scriptures which emphasize the universality of the Gospel message. Pius XI concluded the first line of the discourse in this manner: “Listen, O Heavens, to that which I say; listen, O Earth, listen to the words which come from my mouth…Listen and hear, O Peoples of distant lands!” He continued, speaking in the voice of the Old Testament prophet, To the City and to the World! Now, we turn to the reporting of the event and to the story that preceeded it.
As early as 1925, the Director General of Communications for Vatican City, Jesuit Father Giuseppe Gianfranceschi, was in the process of drawing up plans for the establishment of a wireless station in the Vatican. A letter written by Fr. Gianfranceschi dated July 25, 1925 speaks about the establishment of such a transmission station.
Two years later Fr. Gianfranceschi contacted the Italian scientist Guglielmo Marconi to undertake initial plans and meetings for the realization of this project for the Pope. Marconi demonstrated much enthusiasm for this project and offered his complete availability to the Pontiff. Additionally, he stated that he would perform the work for the Church without charge. Two more years passed before the work would begin. Actually, it was the signing of the Lateran Treaty in 1929 that gave rise to the initiation of the work on this transmission station in the Vatican Gardens. Only four days after the signing of the Lateran Treaty, Marconi received official permission to begin construction of this project for the Vatican City State.
Inauguration of Vatican Radio
On the inauguration day of Vatican Radio a large group of reporters and cameramen from Paramount News of the United States was present. They brought equipment of the highest quality to record the event. The cameras, although hand-powered, shot for the first time in the history of cinema exterior footage with live soundtrack. The film footage of the event, which is conserved in the archives of Vatican Radio, is an irreplaceable testimony of the event in the history of the Church and telecommunications.
It is a cold clear day, with a light wind coming from the mountains in the north…at exactly 3:00 p.m. a Papal gendarme orders the evacuation of the premises. Two Papal banners suspended from each side of the building flutter in the wind. Inside everything is prepared and ready for the first broadcast. The transmitters have been tested for the last time. At 3:30 p.m. the Marquis Marconi arrives; the illustrious inventor goes directly to the Amplification Studio, places the earphones on his head, and begins the transcontinental conversations. The voice arrives clearly in New York, Melbourne, and Quebec. Fr. Gianfranceschi works with his usual conentration in preparing the final arrangements for the broadcast of the Pope. Although beseiged with many questions he responds with his characteristic smile and kindness. His manner serves to reduce the commotion and nervousness of the day. After several moments the equipment is shut down and will be reactivated only after the arrival of the Pontiff.
The first signal to be sent out is in Morse code. The technician types the words, In nomine Domini, Amen, that is In the Name of the Lord, amen! At this very instant radio stations, ships, and anyone who has the equipment to receive the signal hears this benediction and invitation. After a brief introduction of the Pope by Marconi, Pius XI takes the microphone and inaugurates the first world-wide radio message ever given by a Pope.
The first to approach the big microphone is the great architect. Guglielmo Marconi is 56 years old and two years earlier, Pius XI – who wanted a state-of-the-art radio station for the newborn Vatican City – proposed the company to him. The inventor of the radio visits the Vatican on 11 June 1929, just four days after the exchange of ratifications by the Lateran Pacts. The construction work is fast and when the second anniversary of the Pacts … is approaching, the inauguration of the radio is also approaching. …At the microphone, an excited Marconi underlines the most striking aspect of the novelty. After “twenty centuries” of papal Magisterium that has “made itself felt” with the documents, it is the “first time” in which it can be heard “simultaneously” by the Pope’s “living voice”
PS: Marconi’s daughter Maria Eletra lives in Rome
Click here for photos and video from those days in 1931with Pope Pius XI: https://www.vaticannews.va/it/vaticano/news/2019-02/radio-vaticana-anniversario-88-papa-pio-xi-guglielmo-marconi.html#play