A collection of more than 8,000 audio recordings of popes’ speeches since 1884 has been made available in an online archive, “The Voices of the Popes,” presented by Vatican Radio last week.
The oldest recording was made on a dictaphone, and dates to 1884: it is a recording of Leo XIII, heard reading his encyclical “Humanum Genus.”
The archive includes such historic moments as the eve of World War II, when Pius XII, in August 1939, said: "The danger is imminent but there is still time. Nothing is lost with peace, all can be lost with war;" or John XXIII's 1962 "Speech to the Moon" in St Peter's Square when he told the gathered crowd: "When you head home, find your children. Hug and kiss your children and tell them 'This is the hug and kiss of the Pope'."
From more recent times is John Paul II's emotional attack on the Mafia's "culture of death" in 1993 following the killings of anti-mafia magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, and Benedict XVI’s resignation speech, when he said he "will simply be a pilgrim starting the last phase of his pilgrimage on this Earth".
"This way, the popes remain among us thanks to their voices," Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi has said.
The digitization of the tapes is part of preparations for the canonization of John Paul II and John XXIII on April 27.