Vatican’s preparations for the canonization to sainthood of two former popes continue. After announcing the use of social media to reach out to more Catholics about the upcoming monumental event, the Holy See has now announced that the public can now access audio clips of past popes online.
This project comes after the completion of the digitization of up to 8,000 audio tapes from the pontifical archives of the Vatican Radio. Now, it is possible to play back and listen to historical speeches and statements from popes, dating back to 1884 onwards.
The Vatican said through this effort, the past and deceased popes can still ‘remain with us.’ As mentioned, this initiative is obviously part of the preparations for the sainthood ceremony for Pope John Paul II (1978–1995) and Pope John XXII (1958–1963) that will start on April 17. It would be the first ever double papal canonization in Church history.
Radio Vatican was set up in 1931 by Pope Pius XI. Since then, it has been actively storing historical audio clips from the popes. Now, it is releasing several audio recordings, the oldest of which is the Humanun Genus cyclical by Leo XIII, recorded through a Dictaphone in 1884.
It would surely be interesting to note what subjects some of the historic audio recordings feature. Among the most memorable is Pius XII’s August 1939 speech on the eve of World War II. He was trying to restraint the war by reminding everyone that everything can be lost with war, while nothing can be lost with peace.
In 1962, John XXIII’s impromptu ‘Speech to the Moon’ created waves. From the St. Peter’s Square, he told the crowd to head home and hug their children. He then asked the people to tell their kids, “This is the hug and kiss of the Pope.”
Popes’ human emotions
Of course, among the more interesting part of the audio recordings are the emotional and human angles of some of the popes. The clips may indicate how human some past popes remained while heading the universal Church. In May 1978, Paul VI rendered an emotional speech discussing the kidnapping and murder of then Italian prime minister Aldo Moro, whom he referred to as a ‘friend.’
In 1993, John Paul II emotionally attacked the mafia’s popular ‘culture of death.’ In 2013, Benedict XVI resigned and gave a speech about plans to remain a pilgrim who is now at the last phase of his own journey on earth.