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Cardinal Agré on the Potential of TV in Africa

Interview With Retired Archbishop of Abidjan

MADRID, Spain, OCT. 13, 2006 (Zenit) - Africa sorely needs to establish a solid communications network, particularly through television, says the retired archbishop of Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

Cardinal Bernard Agré, 80, is one of the most distinguished figures of the Church in Africa, and is profoundly knowledgeable about the problems facing the earth's poorest continent.

He spoke about the media and Africa in this interview given during the three-day World Congress of Catholic TV in Madrid. The congress ended today.

Q: Your Eminence, the media and more specifically television, is not, as a general rule, and at least in the West, especially inclined to defend the moral values of the Church -- in many cases, quite the contrary. Do you share this view?

Cardinal Agré: Everyone knows it; the media, particularly television, show a total freedom of speech. It is somewhat the rule of the modern communications game.

Consequently, we cannot expect it to be the platform of catechesis and dissemination of the social doctrine of the Church, though perhaps one should acknowledge that from some programs praiseworthy efforts emerge to link the values of law, justice and peace. This is also noticeable outside Catholic programs.

There is a language that obeys the literary genre of social communications of international journalism. Christians and non-Christian meet and can dialogue in the sense of a healthy promotion of human and spiritual values. In this, Africa is not an exception.

Q: As someone who is very knowledgeable about the African reality, how do you think the Catholic media can make headway in a context dominated by an insufficiency of material instruments and the dominance of other religions?

Cardinal Agré: Nothing is impossible for all those who are able to nourish and maintain a great ambition to surmount the recurrent difficulties of penury in regard to materials and finances, as it is precisely what it is about.

The praiseworthy efforts of the pioneers of the African presence in the media, particularly in television, are there to speak and give witness that hope is permitted.

Expenses are great in television, but in a healthy organization, exploiting the local, material and human resources in the best way possible, one can, with perseverance and professionalism, allow the presence of the African continent in the new highways of communication.

Q: What is the present situation of Catholic television in Africa?

Cardinal Agré: It is difficult to answer this question in a few words as a whole development would be necessary. I have done so in a half-hour communication which I presented in Madrid on Oct. 11.

The African Catholic Church is actively present in different ways in international television. It hopes to be present in a more intense way with its own installations and broadcasting stations. Numerous projects are under way. Others function timidly but despite the high costs of their institutions, the strong will of the hierarchy and laity of the African continent will make possible, I am certain, a more significant vitality within that great means of communication and exchange which is television. We are far from having a blocked horizon.

Q: We Christians who work in television should make headway in the competitive world of supply and demand; and, at the same time, remain faithful to the Gospel. At times, this becomes difficult. However, the need to show the world that "God is love" should encourage us. Will Catholic television play an important part in this connection?

Cardinal Agré: In the world of rough competition in which the lure of profit keeps the competitors panting, it is difficult to be on the margin.

However, precise objectives can be set in which man can be encountered within all that is natural and supernatural.

To magnify love, tolerance, justice, respect of human values, the search for peace in the man of faith and the Gospel, in the end cannot leave any one indifferent.

The films of Mother Teresa, Sister Emmanuel, Martin Luther King and John Paul II always hold the attention of believers and nonbelievers. No one can systematically reject being moved even spontaneously by sequences that promote the values we have just mentioned.

Who knows the way of God's action and love for the human creature, even if he is an atheist? Some Muslims have told us recently that the programs on sicknesses, death, John Paul II's funeral, broadcast worldwide, have made it easier for them to have a more fluid dialogue with Christians.

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