Bishops ask Radio Vatican to restore services to Africa

The Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar, pictured in 2015, wrote a letter expressing concern about ending the services of shortwave radio in Africa, saying it affords millions the opportunity to hear (the) Holy Father (AFP Photo/) (OSSERVATORE ROMANO/AFP/File)

Vatican City (AFP) - African bishops have asked Radio Vatican, the official radio of the pope, to restore shortwave transmissions to the continent, the Catholic agency Fides reported on Friday.

Catholics are estimated to number more than 150 million in Africa, the poorest of all continents, and the world's largest seminary is located in Nigeria.

The Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), meeting in the Ghanaian capital Accra, has written a letter expressing "concern about the recent shutdown of the shortwave services of the radio, which afforded millions of Africans the opportunity to hear (the) Holy Father and share in the Church’s concerns and mission," Fides said.

In 2012, the then director general of the Vatican broadcast service, Father Federico Lombardi, had cut medium- and short-wave services by half, citing measures of economy and stopped transmitting to Europe and the Americas.

"Webcasting and satellite transmissions, along with rebroadcasting by local, regional and national radio stations, guarantee the widest possible outreach to Vatican Radio’s programming and services," he had said.

This was why "Vatican Radio believes the time has come to reduce its reliance on traditional technologies, like short- and medium-wave broadcasts, and to develop its resources in new directions".

This year, services to Africa, Asia and the Middle East will be slashed, Fides said.

"While recognising that Vatican Radio services can still be received through the Internet," the SECAM said "many Africans simply do not have the means or the technology to enjoy such services".

"Vatican Radio has always been a credible source for accessing news about the Universal Church and a ready channel for sharing news about Africa with the rest of the world," they said.

Radio Vatican was created in 1931 and has services in 45 languages.

With the latest move "a heritage is in the process of being destroyed," a Fides journalist told AFP.