Catholic television should become 'nervous system' of the Church

Wlodzimierz Redzioch talks to Rev. Msgr. Enrique Planas, Pontifical Council for Social Communications, organizer of the World Congress of Catholic Television Stations.

John Paul II wrote in his apostolic letter 'Rapid Development', his last message to those who are responsible for social communications: 'The communications media have acquired such importance as to be the principal means of guidance and inspiration for many people in their personal, familial, and social behavior'. This means that 'if used by believers with the genius of faith and in docility to the light of the Holy Spirit, can facilitate the communication of the Gospel and render the bonds of communion among church communities more effective.' Undoubtedly, television is the most influential social communication, which is experiencing a period of dynamic technological development that increases its possibilities and influence in an even more powerful way. The Church realizes that on the one hand, it provides vast possibilities of evangelization, but on the other hand, it can become even more powerful tool to fight against the Church and remove faith from human hearts. This increasing influence of television on the contemporary man is a great challenge for the Church. At the end of January in Rome there was the second meeting of the special committee, which was to prepare the World Congress of Catholic Television Stations, organized by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. I interviewed one of the organizers of the congress, Rev. Msgr Enrique Planas, director of the Vatican dicastery and director of the Vatican film library.

Wlodzimierz Redzioch: - What was the aim of the meeting?

Rev. Msgr Enrique Planas: - The aim of our meeting was to prepare the programme of the World Congress of Catholic Television Stations and a list of its participants and speakers. The Congress will have to establish the identity of Catholic television taking into consideration the fact that Catholic television stations in today's world are of various character. On the one hand, we have got big television stations, which can daringly compete with other stations (for example, II Canal 13 in Santiago del Chile), and on the other hand, small congregational channels. Therefore, we want to fix ethical norms (the so-called ideario), something of the kind of 'ten commandments' that all stations, which are called 'Catholic', should obey.

- We witness a dynamic technological development in the field of television. Will the Congress also deal with the technological revolution of television?

- Technological changes will be the second theme of our congress. We do realize that new technologies change the aspect of our work and cause that it will be much easier to own a television station. In five years the number of new television channels will increase in an unbelievable way because the costs to start a channel will decrease considerably. Therefore, we will discuss the present situation and first of all, we will deal with future problems when Catholic television will spread all over the world. We think that all television stations should create a world network - discussion about this project will be one of the aims of the congress.

- How would such a kind of Catholic television network work?

- First of all, it would work thanks to the exchange of programmes. It can be done by organizing a free bank of television programmes (we hope that big television stations will be generous to small stations). We want to encourage people to prepare common services and their exchange as well as to set the rules for such collaboration.

- What would you say about the role of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications in this process of dynamic development of the Catholic television network?

- Our Council is aware of the fact that many Catholic televisions will be created in a short time because even those Catholic institutions that have limited financial means will be able to run a television station. Such small television channels have already been working: in Tenerife two people are running a TV station! In order to avoid chaos in the future the Council wants to deal with this problem today. The Congress will serve to analyze this situation and make order in this field.

- Archbishop John Foley, President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, expressed the wish that Catholic televisions would become 'nervous system' of the Catholic Church. Is it possible?

- It will be possible when Catholic televisions will work in all parts of the world. In order to realize this project big television stations should support the small ones. The present programmes that have been broadcast will be put in archives. We want them, as I have already mentioned, to be put in a free bank of programmes. Two big television stations, the Italian SAT2000 and the Spanish Television Popular, have already accepted this project. We will also contact other big TV stations and ask them to give their programmes at the disposal of the Catholic television channels, which have limited financial means (if they are generous they can also cover the cost of translations into other languages). Thus small Catholic stations will be able to receive free programmes from this special bank. We want this bank to result from the collaboration of Catholic television network. This is not to be a bank of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications but a kind of a cooperative bank (in a word such a bank will be only a big server where programmes should be sent to, and a person that would co-ordinate the work). Naturally, if some TV station wants to create a bank of its own programmes it can do that.

- Catholic television should not be limited only to programmes of catechetical character; it should also broadcast informational programmes and news...

- This is a big problem. Programmes of catechetical character are always suitable but informational programmes are not. So far there has been no Catholic station what would have correspondents everywhere. As far as I know only the Italian station SAT2000 has its own news service but even the powerful American station of Mother Angelica (Eternal Word Television Network) has not got news service. According to me, it can be solved if we can organize an international cooperative and exchange news within its framework. Catholic television in Poland could prepare a programme, for example about the Pope's visit to Czestochowa, and send it to the bank of programmes and other televisions in the world could use it. Whereas Polish television could use the programmes prepared by Spanish or Italian televisions. Some experimental projects have already been realized. In one word, to make the system of Catholic information modern one should have good ideas and some sense of organization.

- The thing is that sometimes Catholic media lack good specialists and professional journalists...

- That's right and we should work on it.

- Many political powers and influential ideological groups accuse Catholic television, and all other Catholic media, of meddling in politics. What do you think about this accusation?

- I personally think that the Church cannot escape from politics. Politics concerns man and the organization of society and that's why the Church should participate in discussion about these subjects. Politics also concerns family, values, ethics and upbringing, and all these subjects have important meaning for the Church. Basically, the Church speaks about two fields: theology and morality. The Catholic Church also thinks that the Pope speaking ex cathedra in matters of the doctrine and morality is infallible. It may sound paradoxical but I would risk to state that it is politics that deals with matters, which concern the Church. Let us take for example family - it is the institution that originated before the state and is based on natural law. Today politics are trying to manipulate it. Therefore, the duty of the Church is to remind, even at the price of being accused of meddling in politics, what natural law is. The same concerns upbringing of children. If politics try to usurp exclusiveness to upbringing for the state, the Church must intervene in order to remind that this is most of all the right of parents. If the Church defends values that have their sources in the Decalogue one cannot accuse her of being involved in politics in an uncritical way. One cannot accuse a bishop or a priest of being involved in politics when he defends human life from conception until natural death.

- Finally I would like to get to know the number of Catholic television stations in the world?

- Our Council has a list of Catholic channels and television studios, which is over 2,000, and certainly this is not a complete list. This brings some complications to organize our world congress. Because of technical and organizational reasons we thought of inviting about 250 people but we have already had 200 registrations although we have not advertised the congress yet.

- Thanking you very much for the conversation I would also like to wish you and the whole Pontifical Council for Social Communications success in creating the Catholic television network in the shortest time possible.

"Niedziela" 9/2006

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: