Catholic World News News Feature
Pope voice dubbed to conceal speaking difficulty? February 07, 2005
The director of the Vatican press office has flatly denied Italian media reports that officials there dubbed an old recording of the Pope's voice onto a broadcast of his Angelus audience on February 6, to cover up the Pontiff's badly slurred voice.
Joaquin Navarro-Valls said that the Italian media reports "make no sense." Earlier on Monday, Father Federico Lombardi, the director of Vatican Radio programming, had been more cautious in responding to the reports. "I do not deny anything; I do not confirm anything," he had said when questioned about the charges.
During his first public appearance since his hospitalization, on Sunday, February 6, Pope John Paul II gave his blessing from the window of his room at the Gemellli Hospital. Some reporters noticed that the voice heard in the Vatican broadcast of the event seemed to change during the course of that blessing.
Because of his weakness, and especially his difficulty in breathing and speaking, Pope John Paul had not delivered his usual discourse to the Sunday audience. Instead his message was read by Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, who also led the praying of the Angelus. The Pope only spoke to give his blessing.
The Pope began, in Latin, with the usual formula: "Sit nomen Domini benedictum." (His aides in the hospital room responded, "Ex hoc nunc et usque in saeculum.") The Pope continued-- in a voice that was breathless and raspy, his words severely slurred: "Adiutorium nostrum…" At that point the broadcast was interrupted.
When the audio broadcast was restored, listeners heard what seemed to be the Pope's voice, speaking much more clearly: "… nel nome del Padre, del Figlio, e dello Spirito Santo." The blessing, which had begun in Latin, was concluded in Italian.
(At the time, the Pope's lips were not visible; from the camera angle below the 10th-floor hospital room, the lower portion of the Pope's face was obscured by a paper that an aide was holding up in front of him. So it was not possible to determine whether the words of the broadcast were in sync with the Pope's speech.)
Alert Roman reporters concluded that Vatican officials had substituted an old tape of the Pope's voice for the faltering live version. When questioned about that possibility, the Vatican Radio director was evasive. "You saw the images of the Pope," said Father Lombardi. "That's what the world was waiting for."
However, Joaquin Navarro-Valls insisted that the reporters' suspicions were baseless. "Naturally," he said, "the words of the Holy Father during the blessing this morning were pronounced at the same time when we heard them on the direct broadcast."