Preface to Book of John Paul II's In-Flight Interviews

«Efficacious Testimony of the Personality and Ideas of Pope Karol Wojtyła»

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 24, 2011 ( Here is a translation of Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi’s preface to a book by Italian journalist Angela Ambrogetti, «Compagni di viaggio. Interviste al volo con Giovanni Paolo II» (Traveling Companions: In-flight Interviews With John Paul II). The book, published by Libreria Editrice Vaticana, was presented at Vatican Radio on Wednesday.

Father Lombardi is the director of the Vatican press office.

* * *

If Vatican Radio has the task of transmitting the pope’s voice to all the world, naturally the main archives of its recordings are essentially dedicated to the voice of the popes. The various language sections of the radio frequently keep interesting documents in their respective languages: interviews with bishops or particularly prestigious people, or events linked to the peoples to which they dedicate their programs. But the main archive has a clear institutional role: to conserve the recordings of the voice of the pope. This is a richness for the whole Church.

The technique for recording and filing recordings has changed rapidly and profoundly over time. Decades ago, big instruments were needed to record, with props difficult to manage, and their conservation didn’t last long. We had, for example, a very large collection of vinyl records, on which were recorded ceremonies from the times of Pius XII. Because of this, it’s not surprising that the recordings from the first decades of Vatican Radio’s existence, for as numerous and valuable as they might seem, are only a very small portion of the pontifical discourses and activities.

But over the years, everything has become markedly easier. And at the same time, the attitude toward conserving documents, in particular documents in audio and video format, has become more attentive and careful.

The pontificate of John Paul II is, therefore, probably the first to be documented in a truly systematic and nearly complete manner, thanks to the audio recordings, which were not only abundantly used in the transmissions, but also carefully classified and conserved. The technical staff of Vatican Radio has committed itself more and more to collecting the most spontaneous and brief addresses, which in times past, were not considered for recording.

Because of this, and because of the exceptional length and intensity of this pontificate, the portion of the audio archive dedicated to John Paul II is by far the largest. Moreover, it is by far the biggest part of the whole of Vatican Radio archives, more than 70%.

Naturally, to accomplish recording the Pope’s voice, the most exacting occasions have been the trips. It’s one thing to record in the Vatican, at the celebrations or audiences, and another thing to run behind a Pope with an overflowing activity level and creativity, through every part of the world and in the most varied of circumstances.

But Vatican Radio has done everything possible to be there. The result is that, even though it is thought that everything has already been said and published, this is not so. There are not a few materials that now can be rediscovered and used with greater time and attention. The recordings of the conversations with journalists on airplanes are among this material, and are some of the most interesting.

Today, the words that Benedict XVI gives to journalists on international flights are carefully transcribed by the journalists themselves, and sometimes even during the flight, transmitted by telephone to the agencies. Afterward they are published practically in their entirety by L’Osservatore Romano. But for many years, it wasn’t like this, in part because conversations with John Paul II had another style — much more spontaneous, made up of numerous brief comments. It was not at all easy to transmit them to Rome, and perhaps was not even necessary to transcribe them in their entirety. But luckily we have conserved the majority of them and can listen to them again.

Because of this, I have happily welcomed Angela Ambrogetti’s proposal to work with the recordings of John Paul II’s conversations during the flights and publish some of the most interesting parts in a book. Such a systematic work had not been done till now. It was truly worth it.

Cardinal Roberto Tucci, the organizer and privileged witness of the great majority of John Paul II’s international trips, told me that he considers this book a unique and efficacious testimony of the personality and ideas of Pope Karol Wojtyła. He appears with great familiarity «as he was,» with his extraordinary spontaneity and liberty of expression, with his goodness and direct style with others, including with this special group of human beings known as journalists.

[Translation by ZENIT]
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation