In carrying out this task of proclaiming the Good News the Church has always endeavoured in every age to make use of the various means of social communication that are at her disposal. In fact, in the Decree of the Second Vatican Council on the Means of Social Communication it is clearly stated that the Church believes her “task involves employing the means of social communication to announce the good news of salvation and to teach men how to use them properly” (Decree on the Means of Social Communication, Inter Mirifica, n. 3).
The Church and the Modern Means of Social Communication
2. In the modern society the communication’s media play a major role in information, cultural promotion and formation. This role is increasing, as a result of technological progress, the extent and diversity of the news transmitted, and the influence exercised on public opinion (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n.2493). We are all aware of the overwhelming influence that the television, the radio, the internet, the print media, the video and other forms of the communication’s media are exerting on us and especially on the young people.
Since the Second Vatican Council the Church has issued many documents on Social Communication, stressing the importance of the mass media and the need for the local Churches not only to use but also to own and run various means of social communication. Pope Paul VI in his Apostolic Exhortation on Evangelization in the Modern World emphatically states that “The Church would feel guilty before the Lord if she did not utilize these powerful means that human skill is daily rendering more perfect” to evangelize (Evangelii Nuntiandi, n. 45).
3. One of the major topics of the Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops was the Means of Social Communication. The Synod Fathers emphasized the urgency of the use of the means of social communication for the evangelization of Africa . This is what the Servant of God, Pope John Paul II, in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Church in Africa and its Evangelizing Mission towards the Year 2000, said in this regard: “Today the Church has at her disposal a variety of means of social communication, traditional as well as modern.
It is her duty to make the best possible use of them in order to spread the message of salvation. In the Church in Africa many obstacles impede easy access to these means, not the least of which is their high cost. Moreover, in many places government regulations impose undue control on them. Every possible effort should be made to remove these obstacles. The media, whether private or public, should serve all people without exception. Therefore I invite the particular Churches of Africa to do everything in their power to meet this objective.” (Ecclesia in Africa , n. 125).
The Situation in the Bamenda Ecclesiastical Province
4. The Church in the Bamenda Ecclesiastical Province has been making some effort to use the means of social communication for evangelization. As far back as 1962 the then Diocese of Buea, which is co-terminal with the Bamenda Ecclesiastical Province , established the Catholic Information Services.
This consisted of a printing press, the publication of the Catholic Information Bulletin, now known as the Cameroon Panorama, and the production of radio programmes like Catholic Panorama and Catholic Meditation which were and are still broadcast through the Buea Provincial Radio Station of Cameroon Radio-Television (CRTV).
The Archdiocese of Bamenda and the Dioceses of Kumbo and Mamfe also make use, in varying degrees, of the air time allotted them by the Cameroon Radio-Television and other private and community radios found in their respective localities. In general, all the dioceses of the Province are making an effort to establish pastoral commissions for Social Communication according to our Provincial Pastoral Plan.
The Necessity of a Catholic Radio Station for the Bamenda Ecclesiastical Province
5. However, we think that this is not enough. It is necessary and urgent for our local Church to own and run her own means of social communication. In the past this has not been possible not only because of the high cost that it entails but also because of the government regulations. For some years now the Government of Cameroon has a new law on the media which liberalizes the media and makes it possible for communities and individuals to own and run private radio and television stations.
There are a number of private radio and television stations now in Cameroon owned by individuals and some Christian Churches . The Archdioceses of Yaounde and Douala , for example, own and run radio stations which have proved to be very effective means of evangelization. It is about time that the Catholic Church in the Bamenda Ecclesiastical Province should own and run its own Radio Station.
Why a Radio Station?
6. Among all the means of social communication the radio is the most popular, easily accessible and affordable by our people. Almost every family, even in the most remote village owns a radio set. This is because, from a practical point of view, there are very simple and cheap radio sets which are easy to operate and to maintain. But, above all, it is because the radio responds more to the African culture and traditional means of social communication.
Ours is basically an oral tradition where history and important messages are communicated through narratives, story telling, oral composition, singing and dancing. A lot of importance is attached to the spoken word, which like the Word of God in the Bible, is considered to be alive and active (cf. Heb. 4:12), and especially when it is proclaimed viva voce. A lot of importance is equally attached to listening. Our people are better listeners than readers. This is evident from the number of Parish Newsletters that are sold in our Parishes on Sundays.
7. As the Apostle Paul rightly and vividly puts it: “Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). The Sacred Scriptures were first proclaimed and handed down orally in the Christian community before they were put down in writing.
8. The radio is therefore the most preferential and probably the most effective means of social communication for evangelization in Africa , where oral tradition is still very strong. Aware of this fact, the 9th Plenary Assembly of the Symposium of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), held in Lome, Togo from 22-29 July 1990, on the theme “Evangelization in Africa through the Communications Media”, affirmed, among other things, that “The Catholic Church should do everything in her power to establish and operate on the continent one or several networks which will be used to propagate the Good News, the Christian culture as well as the integral development of man.” (Final Communique of 9th Plenary Assembly of SECAM).
The Bamenda Provincial Catholic Radio Network
9. Convinced of the fact that the radio is the most effective means of social communication for evangelization, especially in the context of our local Church, we, the Bishops of the Bamenda Ecclesiastical Province , have decided to establish a Provincial Catholic Radio Network (PCRN). The Project has been conceived in consultation and with the expert assistance of the Catholic Media Council (CAMECO) based in Aachen , Germany , which has a lot of experience in setting up Catholic radio stations in many local Churches in Africa .
The network shall consist of radio studios in all the dioceses of the Bamenda Ecclesiastical Province , with one coordination centre. This Provincial Catholic Radio Network (PCRN) shall be owned by the Bishops of the Bamenda Ecclesiastical Province . It shall be called RADIO EVANGELIUM.
10. Its primary mission is to evangelize, that is, to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God, who is “the Way, the Truth and the Life” (Jn. 14:6). It shall contribute towards the liberation of the whole person by the promotion of human life, truth, justice and peace, as well as authentic moral values. Radio Evangelium shall be the voice of the poor and of the voiceless by proclaiming, like Jesus Christ himself, the Good News to the poor (cf. Lk. 4:18).
11. Our desire is to have this radio network go fully operational by September 2009. We have already set up appropriate committees with timelines for this purpose and the project will soon be submitted to the competent government authorities for approval.
The Urgent Need of Funds
12. The Holy Father, Pope John Paul II regretted the fact that the Church in Africa cannot avail itself of the means of social communication which she badly needs for the work of Evangelization because of the high cost that this involves (cf. Ecclesia in Africa, n. 125). To establish and run a private radio is an expensive venture. It involves a lot of human and financial resources. Nevertheless, the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, aware of the importance of the radio as an indispensable instrument of evangelization exhorts the Particular Churches in Africa to make every possible effort to remove these obstacles (cf. Ecclesia in Africa, n. 125).
13. In order that the project of the Provincial Catholic Radio Network may succeed we need enough human and financial resources. We need finances for the appropriate infrastructure, for the purchase of the equipment, for the training of the personnel, for the production of the programmes and for the running of the studios.
We need a minimum of about 200.000.000 (two hundred million) francs CFA for the initial expenditures in order to be able to launch the project. We want to count on the generosity of all the faithful and people of good will in and outside our Ecclesiastical Province in order not only to be able to raise this amount but also sufficient funds for the continuous running of the radio once it has been established.
14. We have decided to start the fundraising for this project on Sunday, 4th May 2008, the 45th World Day of Communication. We request that on that day a special collection for this purpose be taken in all the parishes and institutions throughout the Bamenda Ecclesiastical Province . Special appeals shall be made to the sons and daughters of our Ecclesiastical Province and to benefactors within and outside the Ecclesiastical Province .
We earnestly appeal to all of you to donate generously and to make the necessary sacrifices in cash and in kind, so that this project which is so dear to all of us may see the light and become a complete success.
15. We want to thank all of you in advance for your whole hearted support of the project. We know how much each of you cherishes it. We are immensely grateful to the members of the various preparatory committees, which have been constituted for this purpose, for making themselves available to render this service to our local Church.
They have been working very hard and making enormous sacrifices in order that we may respect the timelines set for the execution of the project. So far they have been doing a commendable job. We call on all of you to give them the fullest support.
16. The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has declared a special year dedicated to St. Paul , the Great Apostle of the Gentiles. This year, the Pauline Year, will begin on Sunday, 29th June 2008 and run until 29th June 2009, Solemnity of the Apostles Peter and Paul. St. Paul can rightly be considered the greatest communicator of the Good News. He tells us: “Woe to me if I do not proclaim the Gospel” (1 Cor. 9:16). Like him we must use every means available to us to proclaim the Good News to the people of our own time.
The Radio is the privileged and indispensable tool of evangelization in the modern time. This is the mission that our Provincial Catholic Radio Network, which has been baptized as “Radio Evangelium”, is called to accomplish. Let us put all our hands on deck to make it a reality. May the Holy Spirit, the First Evangelizer, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Star of Evangelization, enlighten and guide us so that the project may become a great success. Given this day, 20th April 2008 5th Sunday of Easter.
+Cornelius Fontem ESUA
Archbishop of Bamenda
+Immanuel Balanjo BUSHU
Bishop of Buea
+Francis Teke LYSINGE
Bishop of Mamfe
Bishop of Kumbo