By MARIAN CURD
LAUDETUR JESUS CHRISTI. Praised be Jesus Christ. This is Vatican Radio broadcasting on wavelengths of .
Here is our daily news bulletin in
THIS is the call which goes out at least 50 times a day in 30 languages taking the voice of the Holy See to the peoples of the world.
Radio and television did not exist when the last General Council was called in 1870. Thanks to both of them news of the Second Vatican Council is there for all to see and to hear.
The Jesuit Fathers who operate Vatican Radio from a little hill just behind the dome of St. Peter's have two main tasks during the Council. One is to help foreign radio and TV correspondents with their many problems. The other is. of course. to provide Vatican Radio's world-wide listening audience with news of what is happening at the Council sessions.
For telecasts Vatican Radio is assisted by the Italian Radio-TV system RAI, Only RAI cameras and only Vatican Radio microphones are allowed into St. Peter's Basilica.
So is was that on the Council's opening day the Radio loggia in St. Peter's was full of Vatican Radio commentators; RAI cameras were dotted round the Basilica, but foreign radio and TV commentators were positioned before TV screens in Vatican Radio studios outside St Peter's or—as was Fr. Angellus Andrew for the .BBC— hunched up before other TV sets in the crypt of the Basilica.
UNDER THE SPOTLIGHT
WI-eAT is the reason for the xistence of Vatican Radio? What does it do? Who listens to it? Who is responsible for its programmes? Who foots the bills for the three centres which between Fr. Thomas O'Donnell, S..11., Director of Vatican Radio's English programmes since 1954.
them now house one of the most powerful radio stations in the world.
And why, when this powerful station is situated only a thousand or so miles away from England, can't more people in this country tune in?
These were the questions I put to Vatican Radio's EngliTh programmes Director, Fr. Thomas O'Donnell, S.J., whn in spite of having several cracked ribs—the result of being thrown down a Rome bus when it halted abruptly —was keen to explain the working of his Station's three centres,
These are the news gathering offices and news broadcasting studios in the old Petrine Museum in the shadow of the Holy Office under one arm of Bernini's colonnade; the transmitting and central control station in the gardens of Vatican City, and the giant transmitting station 18 miles away at Santa Maria di Galeria.
Visiting broadcasters and telecasters are at present operating front the Petrine building where a large hail has been given over to them exclusively. Soundproof studios have been built and large monitor screens allow them to follow activities in St. Peter's.
Technical aids, RAI technicians, Vatican Radio priests between them speaking more than 30 languages are at hand to explain complex procedure.
IN THE VATICAN GARDENS
THERE can hardly be a more beautifully situated radio station in the world. Vatican Radio's central transmitting and control station stands atop the highest hill in the Vatican gardens alongside the Pope's private walk and barely more than a stone's throw from the ancient tower where Pope John has recently spent much working time. Pale yellow lights shone from the windows of the papal tower when our car — plainly marked with the SCV (Vatican) numberplates drove slowly past the oaks and the chestnut trees. the ilex hedges, the stately, ponderous railway station, picturesque clusters of palaces, the repair shop of the Vatican mosaic workers, and the splashing fountains to the HQ of Station 1-TCJ.
The headquarters and studios of Vatican Radio are in the former summer house of Pope Leo XIII and in the adjoining but remodelled tower built by Leo IV over 1100 years ago—a twin tower to that used by Pope John.
This tower, which served for some years as the Vatican Observatory, has walls over 18ft thick and houses a beautiful chapel dedicated to the Archangel Gabriel, patron of radio and telecommunications. From this chapel, round, and with upholstered seats and kneelers which eliminate noise, comes the Mass and the Oriental Liturgy on Sundays and other feast days, and the evening Rosary.
To one side, in an alcove hollowed deep in the massive walls, stands a small organ, a table and a microphone. There is room for only a doeen or so people.
Beneath the altar I was shown one of Rome's most beautiful reliquaries. A map of the whole world has inserted in it relics of Jesuit martyrs — missionaries who have died for the Faith in the places where the reliquaries appear on the map.
BACK TO MARCONI
AT 4.30 p.m. on February 12, 1931, Pope Pius XI inaugurated Vatican Radio by addressing to the whole world the first papal radio message in history.
By the Pope's side were Cardinal Pacelli (later Pius XII), Cardinal Gaspard; Signor Marconi the inventor who had planned and constructed Vatican Radio; and Fr. Giuseppe Gianfraneschi, Si., first director of the Station.
Marconi had previously announced the Pope's message reminding listeners that although the Pope had made the voice of his Divine Master heard throughout the world for almost 20 centuries. this was the first time that his voice had been heard simultaneously all over the world.
The inauguration of Vatican Radio took place on the second anniversary of the Lateran Treaty which provided the necessary con ditions for the existence of the station since it gave visible expression to the sovereignty and independence of the Holy See. By Article Six of that treaty the Italian State had recognised the right of Vatican City to have direct links with other states by means of telegraphic, telephonic, radiotelegraphic and radiotelephonic services.
The right to engage in radiophonic activity without geographic limitations was granted by the Intercontinental Union of Radiodiffusion in 1936.
THIS WAR, AND AFTER
ON the outbreak of the 1939 War and at the request of Pope Pius XII, Vatican Radio was placed at the service of the Vatican Information Office, which was engaged in the search for missing persons, both civil and military, and for prisoners of war. IN transmissions lasted often for 10-12 hours daily during the busiest periods, for from 1940 to 1946 it broadcast a total of 1,240,728 messages in 12,105 hours.
During the war period also Vatican Radio was often the only contact between Church officials in the warring countries and the Holy See.
With the end of the war came Vatican Radio's enormous expansion programme designed to make the station a living and concrete expression of the universality of the Church.
The language sections were increased in number. The 19 used in 1948 have been stepped up to around 30 used at present—including 17 of countries behind the Iron Curtain. hes The speaker for broadcasts to Russia is a refugee Russian priest.
I asked Fr. O'Donnell if any concrete evidence was received that Vatican Radio broadcasts to Iron Curtain countries are beard —or even listened to.
"More than anyone could ever guess," was the reply. "We have our means of confirming this."
THE VOICE OF TRUTH
AFRANCISCAN priest who escaped from a Communist concentration camp in 1951 writes:
"Against the falsehoods of the Communist radio the Vatican Radio spreads the voice of truth. I tell this from my personal ex perience, for until recently I was one of those slaves under Communist domination who pressed his ear to the radio receiver like a prisoner to the barred window of his cell.
"From the Vatican broadcasts, even as masses of others, I drew strength and courage in the hours of anguish and despair."
BECAUSE a bigger station inside Vatican City was an impossibility, the Holy See in 1951 obtained from the Italian government extra-territorial rights over a 200-acre site at Santa Maria di Galeria, 18 miles from Rome where it was intended to build a ilm transmitting station.
On October 27, 1957, Pope Pius XII became the first Pope to travel anywhere outside of Rome and Castel Gandolfo since Garibaldians stormed Rome in 1870.
"The Gospel of our Divine Redeemer," said Pope Pius opening the new station, "must he preached not only by time honoured methods, but also by means recently brought into use."
The Pope's action put into operation four powerful transmitters. The 24 short wave and one medium wave band allowed the Pope for the first time to make his voice heard directly in all parts of the world.
Planned over a decade, the station took two years to build. Money was given by Catholics all over the world. One Phillips 100kW transmitter was given by Dutch Catholics in the 1950 Holy 'Year. Two Brown Boveri 10kW short wave transmitters and a Brown Bovcri 120kW transmitter for medium wave, have been presented. A further 100kW Telefunken transmitter was given last year by Cardinal Frings of Cologne and opened in November to increase broadcasts to the African continent.
The need for development has become all the more urgent following requests from hierarchies especially those of mission countries. Three new transmitters have come into use this year—the gifts of the Catholics of Australia and New Zealand, of the Association of Knights of Columbus of America, and of Cardinal Spellman.
COSTS AND REVENUE
VATICAN RADIO's director for the past nine years, Fr. Anthony Stefanizzi, S.J., tells us that the vastness of the territory to he reached and the variety of difficulties to be overcome place demands on Vatican Radio that few networks can experience. "Our broadcasts are transmitted for 231 hours each day," he says.
The station costs £200,000 per annum to operate and maintain. Two usual sources of revenue—
advertising and licence fees are "out" for Vatican Radio. Hence the Holy See, although it has the +oluntary offerings of the faithful, has considerable commitments.
The staff consists of about 24 Jesuits, a few priests from other religious orders, a number of laymen. one lay woman and a number of technicians. With the exception Of the technicians, most are paid only nominal sums.
News is gathered from some 40 agencies, from the Osservatore R01110110, and from correspondents in various parts of the world. Hours of hard work must be got through before all is checked, translated, and processed in a neat 15 minute programme.
The news is broadcast daily in at least seven languages including English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese and Spanish. Most Cardinals and Delegates in foreign countries have short-wave radios to pick up the Vatican news.
TO MANY NATIONS
WHEN Pope John goes on to the air next month to give his annual Christmas message to the world, it will be yet another of those occasions when Vatican Radio has to broadcast an identical programme to several nations simultaneously along with a superimposed commentary in the language of the country to which it is Jest hied.
This calls for a unique control and distribution system, so constructed that the basic programme can he directed into as many as 10 different channels, each of which goes to a radio transmitter beaming to a single geographical area, or into an international line carrying the programme direct to the transmission centre of one of the national networks — such as the BBC, Radio Eireann, Hilversum. etc.
A 255ft cross-shaped pylon supports radio beams connecting the station with Vatican City studios.
Although Fr. O'Donnell, Director of the Vatican's English language section since 1954, emphasised to me that the mission of Vatican Radio is not to entertain but to inform and educate. he has justifiable pride in a large and neatly tabulated library of records. which apart from their classical concert value (concerts are given on Thursday afternoons) are handy for the occasional "technical hitch" which even the Vatican has to face on occasion "I like to think that the records are within reach," he remarked.