NewsMediaVatican Radio turns 90 years

Vatican Radio turns 90 years

Fr Paul Samasumo (SIGNIS Radio Desk). On 12 February 2021 Vatican Radio clocks 90 years! The radio has been on-air non-stop for all these long years. It is a significant milestone.

Those of us who work here literally feel what it means to stand on the shoulders of giants -those who have been here before us. So much has been achieved in these 90 years.

The Pope’s voice to the periphery

Editorial Director of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication, Andrea Tornielli, somehow captures the essence of the Pope’s Radio in this anecdote.

On the evening of 17 September 2018, at 11.00 pm, a group of armed men stormed the parish mission of Bomoanga in the Diocese of Niamey, Niger -West Africa. The group abducted the Italian parish priest, Fr Pier Luigi Maccalli (SMA) and took him away with them into the Sahel.

During captivity, “Father Luigi Maccalli, for two years a prisoner of jihadists between Niger and Mali came into possession of a rickety little radio given to him by his captors: ‘Every Saturday I was able to listen to the commentary on the Sunday Gospel on Vatican Radio. Once, even the live Mass … it was the Pope’s Mass of Pentecost 2020,’” Tornielli quoted Father Maccalli as saying.

Radio as a companion

It is moments such as these that define the story of Vatican Radio. With forty different language broadcasts, the radio is probably the only one of its kind in the whole world. Sometimes referred to as a mini-united nations, the radio is home to persons from over sixty countries.

In many ways, the radio is more than just the voice of the Holy Father. It is a radio of accompaniment that broadcasts stories which would ordinarily not make headlines in the secular networks. During the second world war, right through into cold war, many testimonies speak of how the radio was their lifeline. Many clandestine Christians during the years of the Iron curtain, secretly listened to Vatican Radio. Today, Vatican Radio continues that mission of accompaniment. Its shortwave transmissions continue to reach those tucked away and forgotten, such as those in the Sahel.

From the periphery to the centre

Suffice it to say that the listenership to the Shortwave frequencies, though still available, has dwindled. Today, Vatican Radio is retransmitted, for example, in Africa through a growing network of partner-Catholic radio stations. These diocesan radios, re-broadcast Vatican Radio through their local FM frequencies. On a daily basis, the Holy Father’s voice travels to far-flung places and is instantly amplified in forty different languages. Vatican Radio listeners also get to hear news about the Church in other parts of the world. This two-way information flow is at the centre of what Vatican Radio holds dear: Information from the centre of Catholicism towards the peripheries and from the local Churches towards Rome.

The march towards 100 years

The accompanying website, is fast becoming an essential must-go-to news source. The website takes time to explain and give context to news stories in an effort to go beyond the usual one-minute headline. For those seeking reliable news about what is happening in the Catholic Church and the world, Vatican Radio is a good place to start.

And now begins the countdown towards hundred years!


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