During a press conference, held earlier today to mark the 75th anniversary of Vatican Radio, officials from the worldwide media giant called the station a bridge between the Pope, the Holy See and the world, and looked toward its continuing spread of the Gospel--particularly in poorer parts of the world, where the Church is often growing fastest.
The conference was titled "Vatican Radio at 75. New ways to serve the Church and future prospects."
Speaking to the crowd first, Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J., director general of Vatican Radio said that the mission of the media giant, as laid out in its statutes is "To announce the Christian message freely, faithfully and effectively, and to link the center of Catholicism with the countries of the world.”
This, he said, is done by, “diffusing the voice and teachings of the Roman Pontiff; providing information on the activities of the Holy See; reflecting Catholic life around the world; and encouraging the evaluation of contemporary problems in the light of ecclesial Magisterium and with constant attention for the signs of the times."
Likewise, Fr. Lombardi explained that Vatican Radio is characterized by its flexible and multicultural approach, noting that it now transmits programs in 45 languages.
In a general sense, he said, radio "is vital everywhere and in some parts of the world - such as, for example, Africa - it is the means most capable of deep and effective penetration."
The director also described some of the technological advances that Vatican Radio has gone through in recent years and particularly noted how the internet is making news from the Church and the Vatican accessible to people and places where there would otherwise be media darkness
This is serving to “carry out a useful service for the lay world of communication,” he said, noting the organization’s Japanese page, which is the most visited for searches of the word 'Vatican'.
Fr. Lombardi also boasted of the fact that Vatican Radio offers training courses to young journalists and students of social communications, "an average of 50 a year," he said, although "there were 140 during the Jubilee Year 2000."
The Holy See pointed out that Vatican Radio currently employs 384 people, including numerous priests, religious and male and female lay people - from some 59 countries.
A Bridge to the World
Fr. Andrzej Koprowski S.J., who is director of programs at the station, told those gathered that one of the objectives of Vatican Radio is to be "a bridge between the Holy Father - the Holy See - the Universal Church and the respective societies and the respective particular Churches."
Fr. Koprowski went on to explain the genesis of the unique language sections of Vatican Radio into the media and ecclesial context of the world, explaining that each of these sections "came into being at specific moments in the life of the Church and the world."
For example, he pointed out that after World War II and the Communist takeover of eastern Europe, the station directed its efforts towards the countries and particular Churches that were suffering most.
"For this reason," he the program director said, "we have a wealth of programs and languages above all from European countries, especially eastern and southern Europe."
Today, he said, Vatican Radio has become acutely aware "of the development of the Church in Latin America, Africa and Asia."
Making particular reference to "Arabic language and culture, which is no longer the exclusive preserve of the Middle East but also of various regions of Europe and the world,” Fr, Koprowski said that “the view of the 'Arab world' and the 'Muslim world' is not just a political matter, but also a cultural, social and ecclesial question of primary importance, as the last few weeks have shown."
Speaking on Asia, he said that "We know of the development of the Church in India, and we are aware of the role Indian Christianity has for the future of the Universal Church, just as we are aware of ... the vital need for the Church to enter into dialogue and to understand the cultures of other countries in the immense continent of Asia: China, Japan, Vietnam, etc."
Concluding, Fr. Koprowski stressed the cultural and religious situation in many of the world’s formerly Communist European countries which, he said "currently favors new forms of collaboration through the local media, both public and private, Catholic and non-Catholic."