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Evangelizing Through TV in Canada

Interview With Father Thomas Rosica, President of Media Foundation

TORONTO, JAN. 28, 2006 (Zenit) - Television is no longer forbidden territory for evangelization, says the priest who served as national director of World Youth Day 2002 in Canada.

Immediately after that World Youth Day, Basilian Father Thomas Rosica was appointed as president and chief executive officer of the Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation and television network in Canada.

He also lectures on sacred Scripture at the Faculty of Theology of the University of St. Michael's College in Toronto.

Q: How is Salt and Light Television being received in Canada?

Father Rosica: Canada needed this medium more than we know. Starting up a television network anywhere is fraught with challenges, and in Canada this is compounded by the country's size, distances, languages and cultures.

The endeavor has been filled with countless blessings and consolations. In a little less than three years, Salt and Light Television is available in over 100,000 homes. And the number of subscribers is growing.

Q: How did the Salt and Light Television network come about?

Father Rosica: Salt and Light Television was born on the wings of World Youth Day 2002. I have often compared WYD 2002 to a time-released capsule of holy energy and creativity that is slowly bearing fruit across our land.

One of the most obvious fruits of the 2002 event is the television network that came about through the generosity of an Italian Canadian family that owns the largest private print and media company in the country, St. Joseph Communications. Its founder, Mr. Gaetano Gagliano, now 88 years old, was a disciple and friend of Blessed Giacomo Alberione.

Mr. Gagliano views Salt and Light as the crown of his long career in the print, media and communications industry. The Gaglianos provided the seed money to get this project off the ground.

Other visible fruits of the 2002 World Youth Day in Canada have been smaller media efforts in the Archdiocese of Halifax with the John Paul II Media Institute, and the new Catholic film productions in the Archdiocese of Quebec.

Salt and Light is working closely with both dioceses and their fine archbishops: Terrence Prendergast, S.J., in Halifax and Cardinal Marc Ouellet in Quebec City, to encourage their efforts and benefit from the skills and activities of each initiative.

From our very beginning in 2003, we have received unfailing support and encouragement from the Vatican Television Center, from many departments of the Holy See, from the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, and many individual Canadian dioceses.

We have also worked closely with the American bishops' conference television services, Telepace and SAT 2000 in Italy, KTO in France, the Archdiocese of Hong Kong Media Center, and numerous Catholic television networks and Catholic film production houses throughout the world as we prepared our programming for Canada.

Q: Some say that we already have EWTN available, especially in North America. What is unique and specific to the mission of Salt and Light Television?

Father Rosica: Mother Angelica and her very competent and admirable team have done something great for God and the Church by giving us EWTN.

Yet we know that the urgent pastoral needs for education in faith and spirituality, history and Church teachings are so vast and can never be fulfilled by one group or agency.

We view our efforts at Salt and Light as complementary to those of EWTN, but we are also responding to specific needs and complexities of the Canadian Church.

Q: Describe the 24-hour-a-day programming schedule of the Salt and Light Television Network.

Father Rosica: Everything we do revolves around the five pillars of the Salt and Light Television network: prayer, devotion and meditation; multilingual Catholic liturgy, Vatican events and ceremonies; learning and faith development for all ages; stories of Catholic action and social justice throughout Canada and around the globe; stories of our Catholic communities; information and context.

We are producing 14 regular programs in our Toronto broadcast center in English, French, Italian, and beginning in February, 2006, in the Chinese dialect of Cantonese.

We also have occasional programs in Spanish, Polish and German. These languages respond to the culturally diverse Church in Canada.

Salt and Light Television network also works closely with the major television networks in Canada to assist in the background material and education about Catholic matters. This was clearly evident last winter and spring during the transition in the papacy. These efforts have built badly needed bridges with the secular media.

Q: Tell us about your documentary division.

Father Rosica: The documentary division of Salt and Light specializes in the lives of the saints and other unique Catholic stories.

One of our first documentaries was made in Colombia, South America, and featured the young Colombians in Bogota and Medellin who made the small wooden crosses used at World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto.

This social justice story "Learn from that Cross" has touched people throughout the world and kept alive the memory of World Youth Day 2002. Our most well-known documentary is "Love is a Choice," the life of St. Gianna Beretta Molla.

We chose this new saint as the patron of our television network. If there was ever an age when we needed a strong role model of womanhood, motherhood, marriage, family, life ethics and professionalism, it is in St. Gianna.

St. Gianna's husband Pietro and her family are good friends of mine and they asked if we would make the official film documentary of her life. The film on St. Gianna is now available in English, French, Italian, Spanish, and soon in Polish, Portuguese, Arabic and Cantonese.

Our most recent documentary premiered in September at the National Film Board Theater in Toronto. Entitled "Journey of Light: The Search for God in the Holy Land," this 47-minute documentary was filmed on location in Israel and Palestine.

This documentary, which encourages pilgrimage to the Holy Land, was produced with the assistance of His Beatitude Michel Sabbah, Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, and follows the journey of a group of young Catholics to the Holy Land.

Q: We know that Pope John Paul II had a great influence on your life and work. How does his life and vision continue to impact Salt and Light Television and your own life?

Father Rosica: I learned most of what I am doing here at Salt and Light Television from Pope John Paul II. He was a brilliant teacher and model of goodness and humanity ... a wise communicator and a true "Pontifex Massmediaticus."

Pope John Paul II was very happy that this Canadian Catholic television project came to life after World Youth Day 2002 and I had the opportunity of meeting with him on several occasions in 2003 and 2004 to share with him how the network was growing. His eyes lit up!

Now we pray to him and ask him to continue to bless this bold project of the New Evangelization. I am confident that St. Gianna Beretta Molla and Pope John Paul II will do all they can to help us give flesh, depth and beauty to the words, stories and images of the Church through the medium of Catholic television in Canada.


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Canada, TV, Salt, Light, Network, Evangelization, Rosica

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