Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Vatican Radio celebrates 80 years, focuses on digital future

The Vatican's radio station is celebrating its 80th anniversary — with a nod to its distinguished past but clearly focused on the digital future that lies ahead.

The station held a press conference at the Vatican Museums on Feb. 10 to mark the special occasion and offer a glimpse of eight decades of Vatican history through a new exhibit.

Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, president of the Vatican City's government, spoke of the many important moments since Pope Pius XI inaugurated the station on Feb. 12, 1931.

The cardinal remembered its function as a source of independent news during the Second World War and its services that connected families with their sons and fathers separated by the conflict.

During the Cold War, he said, the Church's voice reached where others could not, bringing reliable information and hope.

He praised its history of uniting Catholics and all listeners from the farthest reaches of the planet with Rome and the Popes. Evangelizing and offering the Pope's moral teaching to the world remains its mission today, he said.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman and director of Vatican Radio, defined the radio station's work as carrying out the "splendid mission" of bringing the Pope's words to the people of the world.

It employs 355 people who produce programs in 45 languages. Fr. Lombardi mentioned that this likely makes Vatican Radio the radio station with the broadest reach in the world.

Its staff is dedicated to transmitting the Pope's messages "effectively, in a clear and understandable language, and in such a way to reach so many people, to reach their minds, their hearts, possibly touch them," he said.

For these reasons, the message must be produced in so many languages, tailored for the different cultural contexts and offered with the appropriate technology of the day.

They no longer limit their activities to strictly radio services. They also maintain a website, www.radiovaticana.org, in 38 languages. In recent years, the station has also established its presence on Twitter and YouTube. A new program called "Vatican TIC" aims to soon guide online viewers through papal events.

Msgr. Peter Brian Wells of the Vatican's secretariat of state said it is important for the Church that the station maintains an open channel with the believers of the world, using every means technology permits.

He spoke of smart phones and iPads, podcasts and micro-blogging.

The Holy See, he said, is currently working on a platform to combine the efforts of its media services "to establish the permanent presence of the Holy See in the world of new media."

Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli announced in a January press conference at the Holy See that he hopes this new platform will be ready by Easter.

Radio forms an essential part of this mix of media services along with television and Internet and telecommunications services, explained Msgr. Wells.

"Vatican Radio must be the voice of the Church that contests those who say the Church is not capable of inner renewal, showing instead the tireless desire for purification expressed by her supreme pastor."

It "needs to be the voice that promotes religious freedom in the world" and "the voice that calls for dialogue and harmony in a world that turns increasingly to hatred and violence to solve conflicts," he added.

To do so, the bishop concluded, it must continue to implement new technologies "to be the engine of new forms of consciousness, of awareness: in other words, of a new culture."

According to Fr. Lombardi, the station's qualification as a "radio" provider is now insufficient.

He described it instead as "a great community of communicators and technicians at the service of the mission of the Holy Father, that ... seeks to use the best ways to communicate, in collaboration with all those who can contribute to this mission."

Number of priests growing worldwide, Vatican reports

There are more than 5,000 more Catholic priests globally in 2009 than there were in 1999, according to official Church statistics.

The Vatican's L'Osservatore Romano newspaper anticipated the news from the soon-to-be released 2009 almanac prepared by the Vatican's Central Office of Church Statistics.

The statistics reveal that there were 410,593 priests in the world in 2009 compared to 405,009 in 1999. The number of diocesan priests among these increased by over 10,000 while the number of those belonging to religious orders fell by nearly 5,000.

In North America, as well as Europe and Oceania, the numbers decreased for both diocesan and religious priests. Africa and Asia, however, brought up the overall figures with a more than 30 percent increase on both continents.

Europe still has nearly half of the world's priests, but the "old continent" is gradually losing weight on the world stage.

More seminarians are studying for the priesthood from Africa and Asia and fewer from Europe. But, there is also the issue of the number of deaths of priests in the different areas.

In Europe, the average age of priests is higher than in Africa and Asia. The number of European priests is falling as new ordinations do not surpass the numbers of those who die.

But in Asia and Africa the number of deaths was only one-third of the total new ordinations.

North and South America's numbers combined show a positive trend over the decade since 1999, according to L'Osservatore Romano. In Oceania, the death-to-ordination ratio was equal.

The Vatican's publishing house prints the volume of Church statistics annually. It includes names and biographies of major Catholic figures and offers a variety statistics on all those who work in apostolates and evangelization efforts the world over.

It also offer shorter term statistics. They report, for example, that between 2008 and 2009 the number of priests in the world increased by 809. According the Vatican newspaper, this is the highest jump since 1999 and a reason "to look to the future with renewed hope."

Thursday, February 10, 2011


The number of Catholics, including the number of priests and seminarians, is increasing worldwide, especially in Asia and Africa.
These statistics are found in the 2010 “Annuario Pontificio,” or Pontifical Yearbook, presented Saturday to Benedict XVI by his secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and Archbishop Fernando Filoni, who is in charge of general affairs for the Secretariat of State.
The compilation of the yearbook -- which will soon be on sale in bookstores -- was overseen by Monsignor Vittorio Formenti, director of the Central Office of Church Statistics, Enrico Nenna and their collaborators.
In 2008 there were 1.166 billion baptized Catholics worldwide, an increase of 19 million (up 1.7%). Taking into account the increase in the world’s population to 6.7 billion, there is a slight growth in the percentage of Catholics who make up the global population (from 17.33% to 17.40%).
There was also an increase in the number of bishops, from 4,946 in 2007 to 5,002 in 2008 (up 1.13%). The growth in Africa (up 1.83%) and the Americas (up 1.57%) was significant, while in Asia (up 1.09%) and in Europe (up 0.70%) the values are below the overall average. In Oceania during the same period there was a 3% decrease in the number of bishops.
There was also a slight increase (around 1% between 2000 and 2008) for diocesan and religious priests, whose numbers grew from 405,178 in 2000 to 409,166 in 2008.
The number of clergy by continent has Europe on top, with almost half of the world's priests still residing there (47.1%), followed by the Americas (30%), then Asia (13.2%) and Africa (8.7%) and finally Oceania (1.2%).
So, there was no variation in the distribution of priests in Oceania between 2000 and 2008. During this same period the distribution of priests has grown in Africa, Asia and the Americas, while it has visibly declined in Europe, from 51.5% to 47.1%.
The number of professed women religious dropped markedly: They numbered 801,185 in 2000 and decreased to 739,067 in 2008 (a 7.8% drop).
The largest numbers of professed women religious are in Europe (40.9%) and America (27.5%) but the most notable declines are also in Europe (down 17.6%) and America (down 12.9%), while there are noteworthy increases in Africa (up 21.2%) and Asia (up 16.4%). This growth in Africa and Asia counterbalances the decrease in Europe and America somewhat, but does not stop it.
At the global level the number of candidates for the priesthood is up, rising from 115,919 in 2007 to 117,024 in 2008, which is an increase of about 1%.
The increase in these numbers over this period has come especially from Africa (up 3.6%), Asia (up 4.4%) and Oceania (up 6.5%). In Europe, however, there was a 4.3% drop and the numbers in America have remained more or less stable.