Papal Video Messages: An Increasingly Common Means of Communication

Pope Francis releases two video messages this week: on his imminent visit to Armenia and on abolishing the death penalty.

Video messages by popes — that is the Pope delivering a message of importance directly to camera — were unheard of until Benedict XVI’s pontificate but now have become a staple means of communication for the Holy Father, especially ahead of papal trips

Yesterday, Pope Francis gave a video message to Armenia on the eve of his visit there this weekend. He said he was visiting as a “messenger of peace”, to strengthen communion, to advance reconciliation, and “to allow ourselves together to be animated by hope.”

He also urged the Armenian people not to “allow the painful memories to take possession of our hearts; even in the face of the repeated assaults of evil, let us not give ourselves up.”

On Monday, he issued a video message for a conference in Norway against the death penalty in which he observed that “nowadays the death penalty is unacceptable, however grave the crime of the convicted person.

“It is an offence to the inviolability of life and to the dignity of the human person,” he told the Sixth World Congress against the death penalty, taking place in Oslo. “It likewise contradicts God’s plan for individuals and society, and his merciful justice. Nor is it consonant with any just purpose of punishment. It does not render justice to victims, but instead fosters vengeance. The commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' has absolute value and applies both to the innocent and to the guilty.”

He also called for the “improvement of prison conditions” and not to seek punishment “for its own sake” but to ensure the “rehabilitation of the offender.” There is “no fitting punishment without hope!,” the Pope said. “Punishment for its own sake, without room for hope, is a form of torture, not punishment".

Pope Francis has used the video message multiple times as Pope, and his messages have been relayed on social media and in particular "RadioVaticanaVideo" YouTube channel (it's not clear why they are not also posted on the Vatican's own YouTube channel). This includes issuing a video every month containing his monthly prayer intention (the June video is here).

Benedict XVI gave what is thought to be the first papal video message ahead of his visit to the United States in 2008. The media form was largely welcomed and the style has, thankfully, improved, so that rather than a somewhat stilted message read from a sheet of paper, the Pope now uses an autocue. With the ever increasing popularity of social media and visual communication, it’s likely to become an ever more popular media form for popes in the future.

President Joe Biden on Jan. 22.

Biden As President and the Abortion Issue (Jan. 23)

This last week President Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president. He assumed office in a turbulent time. What are the virtues we need for this moment? This week on Register Radio we talk to Catholic commentator and columnist Kathryn Jean Lopez. And then, we are joined by Professor Helen Alvaré to discuss why “The Catholic Church is Correct in Not Letting the Abortion Issue Slide.”

A mob storms the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Hope Within Crisis (Jan. 16)

As the nation struggles with the COVID pandemic, economic uncertainty and political upheaval, Catholics are also troubled by deep crises within the Church. What is the way forward for authentic renewal? This week on Register Radio, we talk with author Ralph Martin about his analysis of this moment especially in light of his latest book, A Church in Crisis: Pathways Forward. And then, we are joined by Catherine Hadro, host of EWTN Pro-Life Weekly, to assess 8 Hopeful Signs for the Pro-Life Movement in 2021.