Unlike other radio stations, the role of Vatican Radio is to comfort and inspire its listeners as well as inform and entertain. Its magisterium – or teaching – is an unmistakable religious message of love and peace.
On January 25, when Catholics celebrate St. Paul’s conversion, John Paul II enters the basilica and leads the procession to the altar. After a pause, he begins the solemn Mass by singing in Latin, “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.”
The voice is deep, a little off key, the Latin words tinged with native Polish.
At Vatican Radio’s broadcasting center 18 kilometers north of Rome, antennas are transmitting the Mass live on AM and shortwave.
Such pontifical services are the heart of Vatican Radio’s broadcasting. The radio’s editors and technicians also follow the Pope on his frequent travels, broadcasting his religious functions as well as reporting his meetings with heads of state and local clergy.
In 1990, Vatican Radio covered the Papal trips to Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mexico, Malta, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda and Ivory Coast, as well as six pastoral visits within Italy itself and special events at Christmas, Easter and other times.
The airwaves never rest
Vatican Radio is also charged with 24-hour communications between the Pope and the Vatican when he is absent from Rome.
Last year, Vatican Radio was on the air for 17,536 hours, and about half of its broadcasts consisted of religious events and commentary. In addition 1,195 Italian and foreign radio stations rebroadcast Vatican Radio’s programs from countries as geographically distant as Argentina, Israel and Sweden.
The Polish national radio network even rebroadcasts Vatican Radio news programs in their entirety.
But now the Pope himself makes news. In the course of his homily, dedicated to a week of prayer for Christian unity, he announces that all European churches will be invited to take part in a synod, or council of bishops, to be held in Rome during this decade.
At the close of his homily, the Pope refers to the “populations, Christian, Jewish and Muslim, who are living dramatic hours of suffering and anguish.”
The Pope’s appeal for an end to bloodshed in the gulf, apparently so transparent, has knotty political edges.
The Holy See has never wished to have diplomatic relations with Israel, and at this moment, with Scud missiles targeting Tel Aviv and Haifa, it’s an uncomfortable position.