Pope Benedict XVI was the first pope to communicate by social media, a technological advancement Pope Francis now uses as well. Though the Vatican has never had a reputation for being especially tech-savvy, throughout the 20th century the papacy was able to utilize modern communication methods to send out papal edicts in the pope’s own voice, rather than just the written word. But this tradition actually began in the 19th century.
The video featured above reproduces the earliest audio-visual footage of a Bishop of Rome. Taken in 1896, the film shows Pope Leo XIII arriving at an event, although it is unclear if it is a Mass or a papal address.
The audio, which begins about 30 seconds in, is from a different gathering in 1903, the same year that Pope Leo XIII died. In the audio recording, Pope Leo recites the Ave Maria in Latin.
Leo XIII was pope of the Catholic Church from 1878 to 1903. The Vintage News notes that Pope Leo was responsible for reforming poor economies, calling for just labor relations, breaking alliances between the nobility and the Mafia, fighting corruption, clearing the land of bandits, and encouraging trade.
During his tenure, Pope Leo XIII wrote eleven encyclicals on the subject of devotion to the Virgin Mary, and for such works became known as the “Rosary Pope.”
His 25-year papacy is the third longest, behind Pius IX, whose pontificate lasted 32 years, and the Apostle Peter, 34 years. When he died at the age of 93, Leo XIII was the longest-lived pope.