Media and religions

Catholics and television

RAI – the national public television company – inaugurated its official broadcasts on 3 January 1954, after several years of experimental phases and under the careful and vigilant observation of the Church: two days earlier, on 1 January, Pius XII sent his exhortation to the Italian bishops in which he recognized the potential, but also the risks, of the new means of communication. It also promoted the active participation of Catholics. The history of twentieth-century Catholicism also touches on this theme. It is, in fact, by now well established that Italian television was “the driving force behind the cultural policy of Catholics”, but it is also true that cracks are beginning to appear on this, still correct, statement, due to the natural passage of time and the emergence of new sources, which allow us to better specify the positions, delays and pushes forward, to bring out the contradictions and contrasts that were played out in this field. Therefore, this work intends to examine some research topics, including 1) the commitment of Italian and American Catholics in organizing the television system and religious programming in the early 1950s; 2) the broadcasting of the Mass; 3) RAI and Vatican II; 4) religious information; 5) television and its ecclesiological effects.

Contributor: Federico Ruozzi.

Audiovisual sources and the papacy

The years of John Paul II’s pontificate showed the extent to which the Church had entered the agenda of the media and the strength with which the pontiff himself had benefited from it, so much so as to be able to speak of a true and proper “communicative revolution”. If, however, the figure of John Paul II tends to catalyze every reflection on the relationship between church and media, it is also true that since Leo XIII, the first to experiment with the potentialities of moving images, all the pontiffs have been under the ever more indiscreet gaze of the camera first and then of the television cameras. Television, in fact, since its origins, has given space and prominence to the figure of the pope. The media society that appeared in the twentieth century already began to give the measure of its unforeseen effects at the end of the nineteenth century, problematizing the relationship between church and modernity and thus changing the secular relationships that had been established between center and periphery, between local churches and Rome, between pope and faithful, between church and Catholic masses.
Until then, the only way for the faithful to see the pope had been through official iconography, the photographic images that were then beginning to circulate, or devotional images. Few were those who could face a long and expensive trip to Rome. Therefore, a new vehicle for the propagation of the faith, with which all the popes will have to deal and which they will use in different ways, enters the scene.
Therefore, this work intends to reread the history of the contemporary papacy through a particular and fundamental point of observation such as that offered by the audiovisual media, focusing on 1) the use that the popes, from Leo XIII onwards, have made of it; 2) how the media have narrated the various pontificates; 3) the mediatization of certain events (conclave, jubilee, etc.) and the ecclesiological effects of those films.

Contributor: Federico Ruozzi.