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Catholic communicators meet Pope

Three Australians were among delegates of the new International Catholic Media Association SIGNIS received in a private audience by the Pope on Friday.

The occasion marked the bringing together of the international Catholic film organisation OCIC and the international Catholic radio organisation UNDA under the SIGNIS banner.

As International President of OCIC, Australian Fr Peter Malone MSC, played a key role in the formation of SIGNIS.

Representing the Australian Bishops were Mr Peter Thomas, Director of the Australian Catholic Television Library and International Vice President of Unda, and Fr Richard Leonard SJ, head of OCIC Australia and Director of the Australian Catholic Film Office. The new Brussels-based institution will take over the administration and co-ordination of the Church's ministry in visual and broadcast media. The amalgamation is the result of years of negotiations between the two organisations under the leadership of the Vatican's media department: the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. It recognises the growing convergence of media and the need for the Church to have a unified and coordinated approach to influencing communications for good.

Fr Leonard said: "The Church, as one of the world's largest multinational organisations, has an obligation to do all we can to mount a co-ordinated and concerted effort to support good media, promote our Catholic values and principles, encourage cultural diversity and media inculturation and to defend human dignity."

He said SIGNIS will help Catholic media act as "a constructive and effective voice" in international bodies that can influence media policy, while also supporting projects in the third world.