60 years ago, Pope John XXIII inaugurated daily radio broadcasts for Africa.
On 6 November, Pope John XXIII announced sixty years ago, the start of regular, daily transmissions to the Continent of Africa. The inauguration was celebrated in an elaborate ceremony held at Vatican Radio’s transmission centre of Santa Maria di Galeria, on the outskirts of Rome.
Daily broadcasts to Africa
Cardinal Joseph Frings, the Archbishop of Cologne at the time, blessed the new 100 KW Telefunken short-wave transmitter donated to Vatican Radio by the Archdiocese. Later the Pope would thank Cardinal Frings for the gift he described as destined, “for the noblest purpose of missionary apostolate." Towards the end of the inauguration, Cardinal Frings also addressed the people of Africa by way of greeting.
Another message of greeting broadcast was from the then Director of Vatican Radio, Jesuit Father Antonio Stefanizzi. He concluded the ceremony by announcing the start of regular daily broadcasts to Africa in English, French, Portuguese, Arabic and Swahili.
Blessing the "beloved people of Africa"
In the radio message to the people of Africa, Pope John XXIII reiterated his “feelings of particular goodwill for your land and for the people who live there, in whom great hope is placed.” He continued, “There are certainly not a few ties that bind us to the beloved people of Africa, and we cherish them with deep joy," said the Pontiff.
The Pope also reminisced about meeting “eminent personalities who are sincerely friends and well-deserving of Africa.” He further recalled, with fondness, his visit to North Africa in 1950.
The Pope added, “With a mind full of these memories, we turn to you, overcoming immense distances, and we speak to you, as if we were in your midst, to express our heartfelt wishes … May true and stable happiness flourish in your families and in your nations ... May young people grow in respect for righteousness and justice, and may their physical energies be enriched by the gifts of the soul; may all social classes strive to favour and promote, with constant commitment, the well-being of their countries,” said Pope John XXIII as he blessed the continent of Africa.
The people of Africa in the heart of the Pope
In its 6 - 7 November 1961 edition, the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, published the news on its front page with the headline, “The people of Africa in the heart of the Pope.” Immediately below the headline story, there is a photo of the Pontiff holding the text of the radio message and a copy of Pope John XXIII’s autographed note in Latin. The note reads, “The memory of those days when we personally conferred the fullness of the priesthood on not a few African Bishops will never be erased from our memory. When we gave them the kiss of peace, it seemed to us that we were embracing and kissing all the peoples of Africa.”
The Good Pope
Pope John XXIII was known affectionately as the “Good Pope.” His cause for canonisation was opened under Pope Paul VI during the final session of the Second Vatican Council on 18 November 1965. On 3 September 2000, John XXIII was beatified. On 5 July 2013, Pope Francis approved John XXIII for canonisation without the traditional second miracle required. Instead, Pope Francis based this decision on John XXIII’s merits for the Second Vatican Council. Then on Sunday, 27 April 2014, Popes John XXIII and John Paul II were declared saints on Divine Mercy Sunday.
Vatican News English Africa Service