The voices of popes from as long ago as 1884 can now be heard by the public thanks to the digitizing of 8,000 tapes from Vatican Radio’s pontifical archives, the Vatican said on Tuesday.
The initiative was launched as part of preparations for the sainting of popes John Paul II and John XXIII (1958-1963) on April 17, in the first double papal canonization ceremony in church history.
“This way, the popes remain among us thanks to their voices,” Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told journalists.
Radio Vatican has been storing its unique patrimony since it was set up under Pope Pius XI in 1931, but it has also older recordings, such as Pope Leo XIII’s Humanum Genus encyclical, which the pontiff recorded on a Dictaphone dictation machine in 1884.
Some of the clips in the online collection capture historic moments, such as Pope Pius XII’s speech in August 1939 calling for restraint on the eve of World War II, in which he said: “The danger is imminent, but there is still time. Nothing is lost with peace, all can be lost with war.”
People can also listen to John XXIII’s impromptu 1962 Speech to the Moon in St Peter’s Square, where he spoke in answer to requests from a huge crowd and told them: “When you head home, find your children. Hug and kiss your children and tell them: ‘This is the hug and kiss of the pope.’”
Latin buffs can also revel in the same pontiff’s dramatic Second Vatican Council speech in 1962, in which he rejected the “prophets of doom” who forecast the church’s decline and called on the council “to use the medicine of mercy rather than the weapons of severity” in their reforms.
Other highlights include Pope Paul VI’s anguished words following the kidnapping and murder of former Italian prime minister Aldo Moro in May 1978, culminating in his public address to God: “You did not grant our plea for the safety of Aldo Moro, of this good and gentle man ... who was my friend.”
John Paul II’s emotionally-charged attack in 1993 on the Mafia’s “culture of death” following a spate of high-profile killings can be listened to again, as can Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation speech last year, where he said that he “will simply be a pilgrim starting the last phase of his pilgrimage on this earth.”
Pope John Paul I, who lived for just 33 days, can be heard at one of the few Angelus prayers he led describing the terror he felt as he realized the conclave of cardinals had decided to elect him as pope.