Vatican Radio, the voice of the pope, turns 90

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She’s 90 years old, and she speaks 41 languages. Vatican Radio, the “grandmother of radio stations”, has brought the voices of the popes, and the teachings of the Catholic Church, to people around the world since Feb. 12, 1931. 

From papal elections to papal trips, Vatican Radio was there, covering moments of joy and terror: like the assassination attempt against John Paul II on May 13, 1981.

Former Head of Vatican Radio's English Section
“We were about to go on the air when the shots rang out in St. Peter’s Square. And we heard that the pope was shot. We thought he was dead. And many of the programs, the language programs at Vatican Radio, didn’t go on air that evening because people were so devastated. They shut themselves up in their offices and cried at their desks.”

For nearly half of Vatican Radio’s 90 years, Seàn-Patrick Lovett’s voice provided a connection between the English-speaking world and five popes. But it was an unexpected conversation with a group of teenagers in a refugee camp in South Sudan, some years ago, that helped him realize the massive outreach and impact of Vatican Radio’s mission.

Former Head of Vatican Radio's English Section
“And when they hear I come from Rome, they stop me and say, ‘That’s where the pope lives.’ And I go, ‘How would you know that?’ And they say, ‘We know because we listen to his voice on the radio.’ And they take me to one of their huts, and they show me. There’s a wind-up radio, one radio in the hut. And every day they tune in to the radio and they listen to Vatican Radio.”

These are the world’s peripheries. These are the people society often overlooks. But even there, in a remote corner of the world, the Church’s voice can be heard…on a wind-up radio.

Former Head of Vatican Radio's English Section
“And when I was leaving they said, ‘When you go back, will you give the pope a message?’ I said, ‘Of course.’ ‘Would you tell him that every time he speaks about us, whenever he mentions us refugees, we feel less invisible.’ And so if you ask me what the mission of Vatican Radio is and has been, it’s bringing the words of hope, consolation and comfort to people who otherwise feel invisible.”

At 90 years of age, Vatican Radio continues to adapt to new technologies so that the pope's words of encouragement, and the Church’s love and compassion, can continue to reach as many people as possible - no matter who, or where, they are.

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