Monday, March 10, 2014
Caribbean scores first for President of Signis International Catholic Communicators
Cuban Layman Gustavo Andujar (above - at left with VPs Frank Frost and John Sinniah) was elected President of the Signis International at the Congress and Assembly of Delegates attended by more than 300 Catholic communicators from across the globe 25 February -1 March 2014, in a first for Latin America and the Caribbean in the top post of the major international communications group endorsed by the Vatican
A veteran film reviewer and head of the Cuban Catholic Church Signis group, Gustavo has worked closely with Signis Caribbean territories and was nominated by Signis Grenada and seconded by the AEC. Frank Frost of the US and John Sinniah of Malaysia were elected Vice Presidents.
The 300 participants at the Congress attended the General Audience of Pope Francis on 26 February where he specially welcomed them and personally greeted the Signis Officials who were accompanied by Archbishop Celli, President of the Pontifical Commission for Social Communications.
Among the newest members of Signis welcomed and incorporated at the Assembly was the Trinity Communication Network (TCN) represented by at the Congress by Rhonda Maingot and Lisa Bhajan. Deacon Mike James General Secretary of the AEC replaced Javier Molina of Belize as the Signis Caribbean representative at the Signis Assembly of Delegates.
In a Future Search activity among delegates to chart priorities for the movement for the next 4 year there was broad consensus that they would
"Create a strong, self-reliant regional and global network of Catholic communicators that promotes communion among SIGNIS members who integrate their faith and witness to Christ in their activities." The network will:
• Emphasise horizontal networking with partners and professional collaboration outside SIGNIS.
• Build a greater sense of accountability, ownership and responsibility among members.
• Improve regular communication between SIGNIS members.
• Foster regular communication between SIGNIS and the Church Hierarchy
• Strengthen regional organisational structures.
• Engage in ecumenical, inter-religious, inter-faith and inter-cultural dialogue.
Proposed action plans included
1. Creating a database of all SIGNIS members and partners
2. Regional and national retreats
3. Regular Regional exchanges (virtual)
4. Regular information about activities to be shared among all regions.
5. Close Communication with the hierarchy at local, national, regional and global level
6. Use of ecumenical juries in film festivals as a model for collaboration in other fields.
The high point of the Signis Congress was the closing liturgy on 27 February at which Archbishop Celli was Principal Celebrant and homilist and assisted by Bishop Jason Gordon, Chairman of the AEC Communications Commission.
Signis Latin America and the Caribbean (ALC) had been requested to provide the music, prayers and coordination for the liturgy and a "Caribbean Choir" of AEC priests and seminarians studying in Rome accompanied by the Caribbean and Latin American participants lead the assembly in joyful renditions of regional favourites such as 'The Right hand of God', 'The Potter's Clay', 'To be to the Body of the Lord', and the Jamaican 'Hosanna, Hosanna'. In turn the Caribbean lent vocal support to popular Latin American mission and evangelization hymns.
In his homily Archbishop Celli highlighted Pope Francis' message for the 48th World Communications Day and stressed that probably "the most important challenge faced by Catholic communicators is to get closer to men and women of our time, as the Good Samaritan did". He recalled the words of the Pope Francis to emphasize that "communicating means already getting closer to those who are different from ourselves" and that it must imply a sincere concern for their condition.
In his farewell speech outgoing President of SIGNIS, Augustine Loorthusamy highlighted the idea of the "culture of encounter", that was present in the Congress in many conferences and workshops. For him, SIGNIS must be a space of friendship among communicators all over the world. "We need to count on each other as a network for sharing experiences and assisting each other."
Jacques F. El Kallassi of Lebanon, General Manager of Tele Lumiere, made a stirring call on the theme of the congress, Media for a Culture of Peace: the Christians in the Middle East are not a minority, they are part of the universal Church, and they should not be left alone in their struggle for peace.
He highlighted the role media and social networks can play by "creating images and stories for peace to give people opportunities to see that living together is possible." He was confident that the successful work for peace in the region would enable Lebanon to be venue for the next Signis Assembly in 4 years time.
Deacon Mike James
10 March 2014
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