Vatican Radio, the official voice of the Roman Catholic Church, has begun airing advertisements for the first time in its nearly 80-year history, injecting a bit of the profane into its otherwise unwavering lineup of sacred programming. Now, in addition to tracking every move Pope Benedict XVI makes and every word he utters, listeners are being treated to 45-second ads, made in five languages, extolling Italy’s largest power company, Enel, and the virtues of clean energy. Facing a $22-million deficit the papacy has been turning a cost-cutting and revenue-enhancing eye on its radio service. It broadcasts around the world and on the Web in more than 40 languages, costs the Vatican about $31 million a year, and until now has brought in zero revenue. “It’s like having an 80-year-old child living at home all this time, and you say, ‘Darling, we still love you, you can go on living here, we’re not going to kick you out, but it would be nice if you would contribute to paying the phone bill, the gas bill or something,’ ” said Sean-Patrick Lovett, director of Vatican Radio’s English and Italian sections.
Ads appear on Vatican Radio
What's next: Billboards in St. Peter's Square?