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The pope of television: The Vatican had a TV service even before Italy did, thanks to this man

Pope Pius XII writes one of his wartime Christmas radio messages using a typewriter at the Vatican in this undated photo.

CNS photo/courtesy of Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Pope Pius XII writes one of his wartime Christmas radio messages using a typewriter at the Vatican in this undated photo.

I.Media - published on 12/15/17

Pius XII was prophetic: "This wonderful instrument (...) can be the source of very great good, but also of deep misfortune because of the singular attraction that it exerts on people's minds." 

The Vatican is collaborating in a plan to highlight the contribution Pius XII (1939-1958) made to communications technology, as the first pope to truly see the new means of communication as tools of evangelization.

The announcement was made at a congress at the Vatican Film Library on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Pope Pius’ encyclical on radio, film and television, Miranda Prorsus (1957). “Those very remarkable technical inventions” are “the gifts of God, Our Creator, from Whom all good gifts proceed,” says Pius XII in this document.

Pius XII recognized in the media a world-wide “instrument of evangelization,” said university professor Giovanni Vian during the conference. This is why, added Monsignor Dario Edoardo Viganò, prefect of the Secretariat for Communication, Pius XII oversaw a “great technological investment” throughout his pontificate. Notably, he arranged for a Vatican television service in the late 1940s, even before Italy did.

In 1949, he became the first Sovereign Pontiff to send a televised Easter message, thanks to the help of the Dominican television pioneer Raymond Pichard. “We expect from TV consequences of the greatest importance for an increasingly dazzling exposition of the Truth,” said the pope in French in the message broadcast on the antennas of France.

According to Federico Ruozzi, a historian of Christianity and speaker at this symposium, Pius XII is the “true pope of television.” He is also the one who endowed television with a patron saint in 1957: St. Claire. The pope explained his decision thus: “This wonderful instrument (…) can be the source of very great good, but also of deep misfortune because of the singular attraction that it exerts on people’s minds.”




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