Ecologists Want to Silence Vatican Radio

But Scientists Say Claims Are Unfounded

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VATICAN CITY, MAR. 13, 2001 ( A group of prestigious scientists sent a letter to Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi warning him about a campaign of misinformation aimed at Vatican Radio.

The letter, signed Monday at a congress organized for the purpose, states that there is no scientific relation between cancer and electromagnetic fields.

That same day, the directors of Vatican Radio were to appear in court to answer charges of electromagnetic contamination. Ecological groups and the government´s Ministry of the Environment believe that Vatican Radio´s antennas cause cancer.

Among the signers of the letter against the accusations are physicist Tullio Regge; Renato Angelo Ricci, president of the Italian Nuclear Association; Franco Battaglia, professor of chemical physics at the University of Rome; and Giancarlo Corazza, honorary president of the Marconi Foundation.

In the letter the scientists, not all of whom are Catholics, requested that science´s voice be heard in this case, which has «not only been chained, but also trampled.»

The title of the congress, which brought together experts of international renown, was «Environmental Fundamentalism and Scientific Information.» It was called by the Italian Nuclear Association for Documentation and Scientific Information, and the journal 21st Century Science & Technology.

The scientists explained to President Ciampi that any conjecture of a link between cancer and electromagnetic fields is unfounded from the scientific point of view. They also expressed their concern over the government´s waste of money in combating situations that have no scientific verification. What is more, they say, it is money that is not used to combat known diseases.

The scientists further recalled that there are already instructions from the International Commission for the Protection of Non-Ionized Radiations, instructions scrupulously followed by Vatican Radio.

Vatican Radio´s famous antennas are located about a dozen miles from Rome, in a town called Santa Maria di Galeria. They have transmitted the Pope´s words to the world for half a century. When the installations were inaugurated in 1951, the area was practically uninhabited. Now, about 30,000 people reside there. Some residents complain that the antennas interfere with the reception of their telephones, radios and televisions.

The trial, which should have started Monday, was postponed, since the necessary steps had not been taken to call Vatican citizens to appear in Italian courts. The three Vatican Radio figures who were subpoenaed are the director general, Father Pasquale Borgomeo; the president of the administrative committee, Cardinal Roberto Tucci; and the technical head, Constantino Pacifici.

The judge decided to set a new date for the hearing, in September or October.

Father Borgomeo told ZENIT that the Vatican has complied with the European directive on electromagnetic contamination, which establishes a limit of 26 volts per meter. He said this attack against Vatican Radio is «demagogic,» and a «classic example» of manipulation of public opinion.

He also revealed that speculators are interested in the land where the antennas stand, since a railroad line has just been inaugurated which enables passengers to arrive in Rome in 20 minutes. If the antennas were removed, houses could be built that would sell for a much higher price per square meter than was the case a few months ago.

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