Vatican Radio Receives "Unjustified" Conviction

Charged With Electromagnetic Contamination

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 10, 2005 ( Vatican Radio expressed «distress» over a Roman court’s decision to sentence directors of the broadcasting station to 10 days in prison for electromagnetic contamination.

Judge Luisa Martone delivered the judgement Monday, finding Father Pasquale Borgomeo, the Radio’s director general, and Cardinal Roberto Tucci, president of the Management Committee of Vatican Radio guilty of the contamination charges. She did allow, however, a suspended sentence.

The court ordered the directors of Vatican Radio to pay for the costs of the lawsuit and compensation to different civil associations for damages caused by the emissions.

Constantino Pacifici, in charge of the technical aspects of Vatican Radio’s broadcasts, was also prosecuted, but acquitted by the judges as he was not considered responsible.

The office of the public prosecutor had requested 15 days of prison and was favorable to the application of the suspended sentence clause.

The radio’s directors announced that they will appeal the sentence, which they consider «unjustified.»

In a statement, Father Federico Lombardi, director of Vatican Radio’s programming, expressed «distress over the fact that his positions were not recognized as valid or accepted by the court.»

«Vatican Radio has always carried out its activity in the framework of existing international agreements with Italy,» said the priest, adding that attention has always been paid «to international recommendations in the matter of electromagnetic emissions.»

Stressing that the Papal radio station carefully respects «the limits provided by the new Italian normative,» Father Lombardi insisted that there is «no justified reason for concern by the population.»

The statement ends with the hope that Italian justice will contribute «to dispel the horizon of shadows that for too long have damaged its good reputation and contributed to fuel unfounded fears.»

A citizens’ committee of Cesano, with support from the Green Party, filed the original complaint regarding the waves emitted by 28 Vatican Radio antennas in the center of Santa Maria di Galeria, about 30 kilometers (18 miles) from Rome.

In early 2001, the committee claimed that the waves caused leukemia. A study carried out by the Latium Region (to which Rome belongs) showed, however, that there were even fewer cases of leukemia in the area than in the rest of the province.

When the accusation was made, Father Lombardi denounced speculative interests in the area by groups desiring to dismantle the Vatican land in Santa Maria di Galeria.

The transmission center was built before the vast majority of neighboring houses were constructed. A railroad line activated for the Jubilee Year 2000 connected the town with the center of Rome — and awakened the interest of real estate agencies.

The broadcasting center has respected European norms on electromagnetic emission. In four places it exceeded the strict limit established in a recent Italian law pushed by the Greens.

To avoid a dispute, Italy and the Vatican reached an agreement last May. Vatican Radio was to transfer abroad (specifically, to the Principality of Monaco) the transmission of some of its international programs.

In February 2002, a court stated that the case was beyond its jurisdiction due to the Lateran Pacts, recognizing Vatican Radio as a central entity of the Catholic Church.

That sentence was appealed before the Supreme Court, which in April 2003 rejected that interpretation and sent the case back to the Italian courts. It was reopened in October that same year. Vatican Radio plans to appeal the recent decision.

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