NEW PRIORITIES IN ANDHRA COMMUNICATIONS

By John Wijngaards, Amruthavani, 1971

“There are people who keep quiet because they do not know what to say, but there are others who keep quiet because they know the proper time when to speak.”
Sirach 20. 6

“Even when all are convinced of a certain mode of action, if among them there is one who sees a new light and he has the courage to speak, if he speaks loudly. and convincingly with good reasons, then though he be laughed at and ridiculed in the beginning, slowly there will be more to think like himself and all will come to see the new light:’
President Jefferson

The Bishops of our seven Dioceses have entrusted the Catholic Information Centre with the task of promoting and co-ordinating the apostolate of the means of communication in all the seven Dioceses of Andhra. On the occasion of this Annual Report, I feel it my duty to call the attention of all engaged in the apostolate to a number of undilutable facts, to a vision of new possibilities, to a few crying needs which should no longer be overlooked. In so doing I’m aware of the fact that my writing could be misunderstood as a criticism of the wonderful work done by so many dedicated men in our dioceses. Nothing could be further from my mind than such a criticism. Rather, realising all the good that is being done and hoping to be of service in this enormous effort which so many are putting into the apostolate, I would like to point out some needed changes in our approach, some new priorities of action.

It may be well that we call to mind the fact that Christianity is basically the acceptance of a truth and a conversion of heart.  Lord Jesus Christ, when he came, preached: “Believe, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand; do penance, be converted in heart.” His message was words addressed to the minds and hearts of men. When he brought the means 0f salvation – the sacraments, the external structure of His Church – through these many external helps that He left as signs and means of grace, first and foremost in His plan was the purpose of making men change their hearts and their minds. When we work in His service, we should never forget that the aim we should have in mind is not first and foremost the establishment of external structures in stone or concrete, is not the production of material for impressive statistics; it is first and foremost the change of heart and the acceptance of faith that must live in the hearts of men. The Church of Christ will truly be His Church in as far as more and more people accept His message and have their sins forgiven because of their repentance of heart. St. Paul tells us, “If your lips confess Jesus as Lord and if you believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead then you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9). Only if such a true understanding in the mind, such a true change of heart has taken place, will the sacraments of the Lord, these great instruments of His forgiveness and His life-giving grace have any effect at all. In Christianity then, we are very much involved in the work of communication. We are communicating to men a new message, the Word of’ God, and we are communicating to them the grace, the forgiveness of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is very important for us to realise this, and it may be appropriate to recall these great words of Leo XIII in 1892 when he said: “In all places and all times ignorance has been the great enemy of the Church of Jesus Christ. It is still so today when many men are totally ignorant of, or do not know in their true light, the sublime mysteries of the Christian religion and they do not know the incomparable blessings showered upon humanity by the Redeemer of the world. They do not realise the salutary role of that divine society called the Church. They do not know the Church as the infallible teacher of truth, as the sanctifier of souls and, in consequence, as the primary source of perfection for individuals as for peoples. This ignorance exploited by calumny swamps the mass of’ the people.” If the greatest enemy of the Church is ignorance, it is because what Christ has brought to us is precisely a word spoken by God which must be understood and must be made known. It is clear that if today in our present world we would want to dispel the ignorance about that word, if we would want to make that Message known, we have to make full use of’ all the modern means of communication.

Would St. Paul, that great apostle of all times, not have readily made use of all the new opportunities that are offered to extend our speech? Let us remember how he tells St. Timothy that he has to preach at all costs and in all possible ways. He says: “ Before God and before Jesus Christ, who is to be judge of the living and the dead, I put this duty to you, in the name of Jesus appearing and of His kingdom, proclaim the message and, welcome or unwelcome, insist on it. Refute falsehood correct error, call to obedience; but do all with patience and with the intention of teaching” (2 Tim. 4, 1-2). If proclaiming the message is our chief duty as priests and heralds of our Lord Jesus Christ, should we not constantly re-examine our effectiveness in communicating such a message? Should we not reflect on the providential opportunities which God has given us in our own times to put this message across in a far more efficient and far more enduring way?

We all know that the greatest obstacle to the acceptance of Christianity to many of our Hindu brethren is a number of convictions which they have. These convictions are to a great extent no more than unfounded prejudices. They believe that Christianity is essentially a philosophy and a way of life that has come from the West, and they do not see any reason why such a western philosophy should replace their own philosophy and outlook on life. They also believe that Christianity makes progress in India by bribing low caste people to join its ranks. They believe that the work of conversion is purely a matter of luring people into the fold by promising them material gain. How can we ever expect them to accept the message of Christ if we do not succeed in changing these opinions they have? What is the way by which we can change the image they have of Christianity? Cardinal Newman gave the answer about a hundred years ago: “Oblige men to know you; persuade them, importune them, shame them, shame them into knowing you. Make it so clear what you are that they cannot affect not to see you nor refuse to justify you. A religion which comes from God, makes itself approved by conscience of the people wherever it is really known. Your one and almost sole object I say must be to make yourselves known. They must be made to know us as we are, they must be made to look at us and so be overcome.”

In a recent study on the Church in Asia it has been pointed out that it is essential for the Church today to beam its message once more to the intellectual classes. The missionaries of the past used to have the aim of converting first the imperial or royal court and the capital city of the country to which they went. This was the conviction of great men such as Ricci and his companions, great missionary pioneers in China. They knew that if they succeeded in winning over the intellectual leaders of these countries, through them they would win the hearts and minds of the subjects too. These illustrious men of the past, while attending to the royal courts, would strive to implant the faith, or at least Christian ideas, among the leading intellectual class of the nation they were serving, at the same time not neglecting the poorest.

It is time for us to reflect on our approach as is pointed out in the survey mentioned above: “There are only a few kings left in Asia and the great courts are no more, but a leading intellectual class is still there in a new and complex form: professors of the traditional culture, modern scientists, philosophers, journalists, trade union leaders, cinema directors and literary magazine editors. If we are to break through, it is these people who have to be converted, invited not always to the steps of the altar, but at least to the gates of the Church.”

If we are to address the intellectuals of today we will have to do it through the means of social communication. The second Vatican Council made the following proclamation: “By Divine favour especially in modern times human genius has produced natural astonishing inventions in the field of technology. Some of these have an extraordinary bearing on the human spirit since they open up new and highly effective avenues of communication for all kinds of information, ideas and directives. As a mother the Church welcomes and watches such inventions with special concern. Chief among them are those which by their very nature can reach and influence not only the individual man, but the masses themselves, even the whole of society. Such would be the press, the cinema, radio, television and similar media which can be properly classified as instruments of social communication. The Catholic Church has been commissioned by the Lord Christ to bring salvation to every man and is consequently bound to proclaim the Gospel. Hence she judges it part of her duty to preach the news of redemption with the aid of the instruments of social communication and to instruct mankind as well in their worthy use” (‘Inter Mirificano’1.3.).

It is practically impossible to over-estimate the important role which the means of mass communication are playing and will play in the future for the building up of Indian society. Let us take the example of the press. In 1968 India possessed 9,315 newspapers and periodicals with a total circulation of 218,87 lakhs. The same year saw an estimated 15,000 new book titles. The per capita consumption of newsprint was 0.2 kg., and of bookprint 0.5 kg. with a literacy rate that will steadily grow from its 24 percent to an estimated 40 percent in the next ten years, the printed word will assume increasing importance.

The Radio has successfully conquered the hearts and minds of many in the nation. The All India Radio has as network of 36 principle broadcasting stations and 22 auxiliary centres. On the 31st of December, 1967, more than 75 lakhs receiver licenses were in force. This means that the radio services are effectively communicating to 40 million people. The importance of this figure will be realised if one knows that this means a twenty-fold increase since 1947 when the people who could be reached counted no more than 2 million. The intensified efforts to penetrate into the rural areas, by giving subsidies to community sets (125,375 in 1967), by stepping up rural broadcasts (2 hours a day in every vernacular), and increasing the network (70 percent of the population covered in 1967), gives even more reason to forecast revolutionary developments in the field of radio broadcasting.

It is well known how films have already begun to mould the ideals and aspirations of the Indian communities. In 1967 India produced 383 feature films and 826 short films, in the fifteen major vernacular languages. During the same year the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting released 1,025 newsreels and 1,030 short films for exhibition in cinemas. To 2,602 films of foreign producers permission for public exhibition in India was granted. India is now is the second largest film producing country in the world. The number of cinemas and of filmgoers is still increasing year by year. At least half the population is effectively under the influence of the films.

Potentially the greatest force of the future, television, entered the Indian scene in 1959 with a part-time service for viewers in Delhi. From August 15, 1965, there have been daily programmes with an estimated audience of 20,000 for each programme. The School Television Section has placed sets in 323 schools, covering 36,000 students of science, 96,000 students of English and 96,000 of general science. Programmes from all over the world will be accessible to India through Telstar III and the relaying station in Bombay that will be operational from January, 1971. At present there are 4,800 TV stations in the world and an estimated 193 million receiver sets. The future development of television in India will not be less revolutionary and cataclysmic than it has proved to be in other countries.

In the face of these rapid developments it is clear that the Church has to re-examine her own involvement in the means of social communication.  The Constitution of the Second Vatican Council, “Inter Mirifica”, solemnly promulgated on the 4th of December, 1963, underlined the responsibility of the People of God, individually and collectively, with regard to these means of communication. With this, a new chapter of Church involvement was initiated. In the Indian context, concrete expression was given to this involvement by the establishment of a CBCI Commission for the Means of Mass Communication in 1966, and the erection of a National Communications Co-ordination Centre with full-time staff in July, 1969. In Andhra the Catholic Information Centre fulfils a similar function.

The task that lies before the Church in this field is enormous. It requires a thorough programme of re-education on all levels, so as to arrive at a positive appreciation of these means of communication.  Priests and religious, as well as lay people, are still largely dominated by anti-secular attitudes of former decades. Training in the seminaries, novitiates and, educational institutes will have to be geared to imparting the knowledge and motivation that will enable the future Christian to avail himself of the positive values inherent in the press, radio, film and television. Christians rather than remaining a passive or opposing force, should play a responsible part in the society-building work of these instruments of communication.

The social evolutions that go hand in hand with development of these means of communication will also effect the Church’s work of preaching Christ and Christianising the world.  The modern means of social communication will have to be integrated in the total pattern of catechesis and the pastoral apostolate. Instruction in its various forms will increasingly have to be channelled through the present day audio-visual instrument. The proclamation of the word “ad extra” should more and more be measured in the context of the total image projected by the Church through the national organs of communication.

This new involvement of the Church will have to lead to the creation of new structures and fresh allotments of financial resources and personnel. What is the Church in Andhra doing about this? Have the dioceses and the parishes re-oriented themselves towards this new approach? Are sufficient persons and resources being set apart for this enormously promising new challenge, that more and more books are being published, that more and more people are being given the chances to sing their “bura-kadhas”, that more attempts are made to have radio programmes for our own Catholics in Telugu. But is it not true that still it has to be reckoned a rather isolated effort, that too few are convinced of this new dimension in the Church’s apostolate, that too few persons and resources are assigned to this new task?

I think that we in Andhra would be acting with greater resolve and be ready to bring more sacrifices if we were truly convinced of the effectiveness of the means of communication and if we saw their use in the apostolate as real possibilities in our situation. There is, for example, the apostolate of books. The written word is a message that multiplies our own speech and that will reach many homes, offices and other important places where the priest can never come. In the history of the Church one finds striking proofs of this such as is the case of the mission in Korea, a mission which was entirely begun through the apostolate of books. No foreigners were admitted into Korea and the message of Christianity only came to Korea when in I637 a member of the royal family visited Peking and, having heard about the Christian religion from the missionaries at the imperial court of China, took with him many Catholic books in Chinese when returning to his own country. These books were placed in the royal library of the Korean court. They were widely read, commented upon and discussed. The books convinced many Koreans of the truth of Christianity and converted many to Christ, even though they had never met a priest. It is only after more than a century, in 1783, that the apostolate of these books came to light when a delegation from Korea went to Peking and contacted the Christian missionaries in that city. The Church in Korea has been a flourishing Church ever after in spite of its many persecutions. And when the first priest set foot in Korea on the 5th of January 1795, he already found a community of over 4,000 faithful who had been baptised and who were anxiously looking forward to his coming. The books had carried the message where the priests had been unable to come. The same is true for Andhra today. So many of our social communities and our different castes cannot easily be approached by us. But the written word will cross the threshold of their homes. So many seekers of truth, scattered in villages all over the vast country will never have a chance of meeting a priest. But the written word can come to their village.

Many territories of social, industrial and political life will remain closed to us, unless an entrance is won by means of the written word. We should therefore devote more of our energy to this very promising apostolate, indispensible in the totality of our message in Andhra.

There is a great variety of ways in which we can strengthen the dynamism of the written word in our dioceses. It may be hurtful to see what is done in other parts of the Church. We read about the great influence of good Catholic News Services in various countries. A similar news service for secular papers would be one very effective means of spreading our message through the normal channels of the press in Andhra.

On May the 3rd in 1965 a great fair of Catholic books was organised in Cuntibor in Brazil. This fair was entirely an initiative, taken by the CSU of that university. With great care the fair had been prepared, so as to make it as effective as possible. Its success can be illustrated from the fact that more than 20,000 books were sold in a few days’ time.

Such book fairs, such little exhibitions of book and sales campaigns could be organised in many centres in Andhra. And even if the figures arrived at would not be able to compete with those of the fair in Brazil, the overall results of a united and continued effort all over Andhra could be just as great or greater than what was achieved at that fair. Or again let us call to mind the great efforts of our Protestant brethren in training people to be books-sellers. We all know that many of our Christians would be willing and capable to take a leading role in the distribution and sale of our pamphlets and our books but these prospective apostles need to be given the motivation and the practical know how of selling and marketing. Much will depend on the encouragement and guidance given by the local parish priest or superior. It is reported that the sale of Protestant books in one district in Assam went up with an increase of twenty times the original after training had been given to local leaders in bookselling, And what about the distribution of our Catholic periodicals?

There is the notable example of a parish priest in Morocco who through his enthusiasm brought the subscription rate to a Christian magazine from a meagre number of 25 papers sold every Sunday, to the unbelievably high number of 2,500 every week. He achieved this enormous feat by organising the laity in his parish, inspiring a good number of them to make a well-planned weekly round of certain streets and homes. In this way his parish was truly revolutionised by the new knowledge about Christianity that was reaching the people effectively.

From all those different examples, which have to be applied to Andhra in their own way, we should at least gain the conviction that something can and should be done to strengthen our own press and own publications. The situation in Brazil or in Morocco is not more favourable to the distribution and sale of literature than it is in Andhra today. The responses to the publication of our Centre prove beyond doubt that our written word is well received. What it needs from our side is a more determined effort on the part of all, a readiness to spend our time and our resources to its strengthening.

And what about the unexplored apostolate through the Radio? Again examples may enlighten us. We have many catechumens under instruction every year. Moreover, all over Andhra, through the scarcity of priests, many of our Catholics have been rather inadequately instructed in the truths of their faith or in the practices of their religion.

The radio schools of Columbia may be the example, giving an answer to our own problems. As is well known, this network of radio broadcasting was set up by Mgr. Salcedo in 1947 and has now grown out into a great radio programming scheme which broadcasts from four different centres. The broadcast has courses both educational and purely religious in every local community of the village parishes, little groups are formed called radio clubs or radio school, which are encouraged to meet regularly to listen to the programme. A volunteer will be recruited who will be the leader of such a group and who will, if necessary, call them together and make the local arrangements for a good reception. We can judge the effectiveness of this apostolate from the figures given for 1956. At that time more than 28,535 radio clubs were registered in 909 townships and villages all over Columbia. The total number of people regularly listening to the broadcasts was well over 200,000 apart from many others who would listen occasionally.

Or if we prefer the example of what can be done to be seen in Asian context and in a country in which Christians hardly number one percent of the population, let us turn our attention to Japan. In that quickly developing country two Maryknoll Fathers have successfully launched programmes that are being broadcasted over the national radio. They presently run two series of programmes. The first programme is called “The Smile of the Sun”. It is a five minutes’ talk, broadcasted every day by 52 stations all over the country. The second broadcast, called “The Friend of the Heart”, is broadcasted every day (except Sunday) by 87 stations in all corners and districts of Japan. The programmes do not speak directly about the teachings of the Church. They speak about the lives of the people, their problems, their hopes and their fears. But Christian principles permeate every talk and through these repeated and frequent broadcasts a great influence to the good and an indirect preparation for Christ is certainly achieved among the hundred million Japanese that listen to them.

Is it necessary to produce other examples? Can we not see with our own eyes how our Protestant brethren have four radio production units in Andhra itself, with a staff of full-time personnel numbering over 20 trained persons? Have their daily radio programmes, broadcast from Addis Abbaba and Manila not had a striking response from all over Andhra? The Suvartha Vani Radio station in Vijayawada is receiving hundreds of letters every week. It is high time that we too are prepared to dedicate more funds and more persons to this apostolate.

It may not be necessary to dwell at length on the great place the Telugu film has for the masses of our people. Father Wenisch the well known champion for the Eucharistic Crusade, who has spoken to hundreds of thousands of children all over the south of India, once made this remarkable statement: “To my knowledge there is no more effective means of speaking to the people of India today than through films produced in their own culture and language.” Attempts at making Christian films have been initiated successfully all over the world. In preparation for the coming of television to Andhra in 1975, preparations for such film productions are even more imperative today. Again, a glance at the initiative taken in this field by our Protestant brethren should shame us into silence and determined action.

It may be bold on my part to speak out, but I would like to appeal to the conscience of all those who wield authority in the matter of allocating resources.  It has come to my notice that in some parishes with only a very small population of Catholics, churches have been built or are being built that cost more than a hundred thousand rupees. With this same money we would have been able to print 400,000 pamphlets of about 20 pages each. Or we would have been able to produce three good Telugu films lasting an hour each. Or again it would have sufficed to pay for two radio production units with all the essential equipment to record radio programmes for broadcasting. And what about our schools and institutions which often spend lakhs on an extension of their establishment? What about our parishes where the annual gift of the people is used for building halls or store-rooms of no immediate necessity to the parish? Understand me well: I am not against building churches, extending schools or raising parish halls whenever and to the extent this is really necessary in the Church, but I believe that when we allocate funds for such projects we should also think of other priorities both in our parish and in the diocese and for the whole of Andhra, especially regarding the means of communication. We should never tolerate that this aspect of the apostolate be treated by us as the orphan or as the beggar child that has to find a living entirely from the gifts of Churches abroad.

From the plans disclosed in this Annual Report you will see that the Catholic Information Centre of Hyderabad is making a serious effort to plan the future of the apostolate of the press, the radio and the film in a bold and systematic fashion. What we ask from you is a total co-operation in taking local initiative, in encouraging the apostolate of communication in every way possible, in helping us co-ordinate overall schemes for the good of all seven dioceses, and in helping us find the resources and personnel to start and maintain service for the whole Church in Andhra. May God bless and fructify the hard labour undertaken by the Church, by all engaged in his service. May He grant that the great work of communicating His message and His grace bear the fruits they are intended to bring. May God help us to make the most efficient use of all channels of communication in our present day.

Respectfully submitted on behalf of the whole staff.