×

First the Vatican sends out a puff of white smoke — now it’s accused of sending out electromagnetic waves.

And while Vatican Radio admits its emissions, the results are in dispute. Some have claimed these emissions cause leukemia; others complain that they creep into doorbell electronics and cause them to start playing Hail Marys.

Last week, Father Pasquale Borgomeo, the Vatican Radio director, and Cardinal Roberto Tucci, a former chairman of the broadcaster’s board, were convicted of polluting the environment with waves beamed worldwide by the official Roman Catholic radio station.

Italo environmentalists say Vatican Radio’s signal is a health and safety hazard. Following the May 9 court verdict, consumer protection group Codacons is pushing for $337 million in damages.

Vatican Radio is appealing, calling the verdict “unjustified.” It asserts that as a sovereign nation, the Vatican shouldn’t be subject to Italo laws. It adds that the broadcasts meet more liberal European safety standards anyway.

Residents of Cesano, the Rome suburb where Vatican Radio’s 34 transmission towers are located, filed complaints about high rates of leukemia that they attribute to the radio signals.

Under Italian law, broadcasters are limited to an output standard of six volts per meter. But prosecutors said Vatican Radio has been transmitting well above that limit; a measurement allegedly taken the day the pope died measured emissions at 15 volts per meter.