Viva il Papa – The Vatican’s Translation and Multimedia Success

Your Holiness, how do you do it? How do you communicate with 1.2 billion Catholics spreading from Oceania to Brazil and ensure that you are understood?

The avenues are varied and the resources invested are substantial.

Every Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. during the General Audience on St. Peter’s Square, following the more official catechesis, His Holiness addresses the pilgrims with questions and improvised dialogue that capture his listeners. These are tricky sections to translate, Radio Vatican’s translators get busy thinking about the meaning of the statements as well as the culture to which they will be transmitted, then provide the foreign language deliverable. The 400 employees from Radio Vatican come from 40 different countries and the radio content is translated into 44 languages (three types of English: World, Africa and Asia). The translations are sent to 39 radio programs around the world.


The General Audience often lasts until noon. All that is spoken by the Pope is transcribed and subsequently translated. Rumors say that the Vatican will run out of archiving room soon!

13,005,370: is the official number of followers @Pontifex had as of April 2014. These numbers are at the levels of Beyoncé Knowels’ followers. Not only that, the @Pontifex tweets are translated into 9 languages including Latin and are read in all corners of the globe. The Pope’s Spanish feed (@Pontifex_es) is the most popular on the social network, with 5.4 million followers. @Pontifex has 3.9 million followers in English, 1.6 in Italian, 1 million in Portuguese, 259,042 in French, 236,808 in Latin, 215,082 in Polish, 183,363 in German and 122,344 in Arabic. (Fox News, April 16, 2014). The content across international twitter accounts seems to match, the latest one on May 1: “I ask everyone with political responsibility to remember two things: human dignity and the common good.” Viva il Papa!

Facebook is covered too, though the Vatican page does not nearly have as many followers as Pope Francis’ Community Page. The translation of the Vatican’s website is offered in nine languages; the latest tweet from @Pontifex runs through the top, in the matching language. The latest General Audience is there too, the link directs to the Vatican Radio.

Last but not least, there is the Vatican’s YouTube channel, one for nine different languages.  All major papal events can be found there, including all his General Audiences. They do not require translation because Fathers from all across the world read in their own language.  After this, the Fathers address the Pope in their own language, the catechesis is then ended with the Our Father sung by everyone in Latin. The Pope then proceeds to interacting with the pilgrims, without script.

Your Holiness, we are so very impressed.