Some years ago I decided to start a research project, leading to a book on Vatican Radio. Research of this type is often an adventure that leads one on routes that are unexpected. In this case, although I am still interested in my original idea, I became interested in Fr. Giuseppe Gianfranceschi, s.j., who was the first Director of Vatican Radio.
I was given a letter of introduction to the Archivio at the Università Pontificia Gregoriana by Fr. Lombardi, s.j., and arrived to find out what resources they had on Gianfranceschi. The archive holds his personal papers, since he was at one stage Rettore Magnifico of the Gregoriana. I have become more and more fascinated by this man, who was one of the top scientists of his time, taught at the University of Rome – at a time when there was considerable angst between the state and the church; began the scouting movement in Italy, was President of the New Lincei at a very early age, spoke several languages; wrote many papers for top international journals; instructed Marconi in the faith before he was brought into the church, as well, of course, as being Rector of the University and then Director of Vatican Radio. At 53 he also became a polar explorer! During his time at Svalbard he began a small newsletter for his colleagues and it seems that it was he who drew the cartoons. How many talents can one man have?
Sadly, he died at 59, much too young, and he was buried in his natal town (Arcevia). So famous in his time, he is now unknown. I think that I have made it my quest to re-introduce him to the world at large.
I cannot thank Fr. Martin Morales, .s.j., Dssa. Cristina Berna and the other staff members of the Archivio enough for their continuing help on what has been a very slow process. They are extremely professional, knowledgeable and helpful. Like many of the lay people who come to study or research at the Gregoriana. I have to be self-funding and have to work around family commitments. Since I have now left the University of Westminster, London, where I was a Senior Lecturer in Media Theory, and now only work part-time, this is difficult sometimes – but the time that I do manage to spend in the Archivio is both well worthwhile and mentally stimulating. I just wish I could spend longer periods there.