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1.  Since the mid twentieth century, the world has been in the thick of a unique peaceful revolution, the media revolution.  Modern means of communication invaded the core of our daily life, becoming for many the preferred instrument of knowledge and recreation and the third activity after work and sleep.  Thanks to this revolution, planet Earth has become a global village and open space, and advanced media technologies such as the press, radio, television and the internet have had a profound impact on the means of communication, the imparting of knowledge and guidance among people.  Newspapers, radio and television stations, and websites, are being exposed to all information and recreational fields in a tangible and rapid fashion, attracting individuals and groups, developing or shaping their thinking, their way of expression, and their conduct, not to mention its effect in molding national and international public opinion, in motivating it and driving it in decisive directions.  These means occupy a prominent position in today’s world, whether at the political level where they exercise an informational and a supervisory role over public authorities in most countries, or at the educational, cultural and spiritual levels, where they contribute to the development of educational systems, the dissemination of knowledge, facilitating acquaintanceship and interaction between various civilizations, and the spreading and deepening of spiritual messages.



Chapter One:

The Church and the Media


2.  From the beginning, the Universal Church realized the broad and multi-facetted role of the media.  The Second Vatican Council Decree Inter Mirifica (Decree on the Means of Social Communication) promulgated in 1963, expressed the importance of what it called the “Social media,” that is, the press, cinema, radio, television and the like, considering them “discoveries which men of talent … have made with God’s help,”[1] and among the means that “can be of great service to mankind, since they contribute to men’s entertainment and instruction as well as to the spread and support of the Kingdom of God.”[2]  The Conciliar Decree binds the public authority with “the duty of protecting and safeguarding true and just freedom of information,”[3] and orders the preparing of priests, religious and the laity to acquire the proper skills in the use of these means for the purposes of the apostolate,[4] and the increase in the number of school faculties and institutes to provide newsmen, writers for screen, radio and television with sound training imbued with the Christian spirit[5] and the establishment of Catholic national offices for affairs of the press.[6]  Finally, the Council recommended that all the dioceses of the world celebrate every year a day dedicated to the support of social communications.[7]


3.  At the organizational level, Pope Pius XII declared, shortly before the Second Vatican Council, the creation of a papal commission pertaining to the cinema, radio and TV.  In 1959, Pope John XXIII confirmed it as a permanent commission in the Roman Curia, and after him, Pope Paul VI modified it, in 1964, into a pontifical commission for social communication, adding to its competence the written media as well.[8]  As a last step, Pope John Paul II raised it to the status of Pontifical Council for Social Communications in 1989.[9]  Since 1967, the Popes have adopted the practice of issuing an annual letter on the occasion of World Communications Day, habitually organized on the Sunday before Pentecost in most parts of the world.  It is worth mentioning that the Church declared Clare of Assisi as patron saint of television media personnel,[10] Francis de Sales as patron saint of journalists and the Archangel Gabriel as patron of radio media personnel.


4.  The Universal Church promulgated a series of guidance documents on how to deal with the social media.  The first and most important of these documents is the Pastoral Instruction Communio et Progressio, (On the Means of Social Communication), in 1971, in response to a special mandate from the Second Vatican council.[11]  Most prominent in this document is that the Church sees these media as “gifts of God.”[12]  She has appealed to every Christian man and woman saying: “Indeed it would be difficult to suggest that Christ’s command was being obeyed unless all the opportunities offered by the modern media to extend to vast numbers of people the announcement of his Good News were being used.[13]  She also stressed that “the standard of such presentations must at least equal in quality the other productions of the media.[14]  The Pontifical Council for Social Communications issued numerous documents on media ethics, advertising morals, Internet ethics, rules governing ecumenical cooperation and cooperation among religions with regard to the media.  All these documents constitute a precious reference for media personnel as regards morality in their profession and the method of embodying their Christian values through this profession in their own environment.[15]


5.  Pope John Paul II reflected “protractedly on the deep cultural meaning of social media.  He envisions the world of the media as “the first Areopagus in modern times…capable of unifying humanity into a ‘global village.”  His Holiness says that the world of today is living an age of “global communication” affecting, to a high degree, “the formation of personality and conscience, the interpretation and structuring of affective relationships, the coming together of the educative and formative phases, the elaboration and diffusion of cultural phenomena, and the development of social, political and economic life.”  Thus, “The mass media can and must promote justice and solidarity according to an organic and correct vision of human development, by reporting events accurately and truthfully, analyzing situations and problems completely, and providing a forum for different opinions.”  His Holiness concludes saying: “An authentically ethical approach to using the powerful communication media must be situated within the context of a mature exercise of freedom and responsibility, founded upon the supreme criteria of truth and justice.”[16]


6.  His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, had reminded the Church of Lebanon, in the Apostolic Exhortation  A New Hope for Lebanon, that the Church has her position in the media “for the sake of promoting the truth, a precondition to any human dignity” and for the sake of upholding “spiritual and moral values,” supporting the initiatives taken by the Church to invigorate the plan concerning religious broadcasting, and informational and educational programming that aid in “cultivating the critical sense in adults and the youth vis-à-vis the abundance of media insinuations which sometimes give the impression that all kinds of behavior are equally acceptable.”  The Pope recommended that the Church should “give attention to the formation of competent persons to perceive the stakes involved in the media.”[17]


7.  The Maronite Church perceived the importance of this precious ecclesiastical formation, putting it into operation wherever opportune, particularly in Lebanon whose constitution guarantees freedom of opinion and expression, the freedom of thought, conscience and religion and that of education.  In this small country, home of the Maronite Patriarchal See for hundreds of years, the Church was able to promote its media message for the good of Christians in the Arab lands and also for the good of numerous non-Christians.  As for the countries of expansion, our Church strove to employ her media means to maintain the Maronites’ link with their mother Church and to further acquaint them with their eastern liturgical and spiritual roots.  We will try to discern the actual state of affairs of the media, the religious as well as the temporal, in Lebanon and in the countries of the expansion, and the presence of the Maronite Church in it, past, present and future.


Chapter Two:

The Maronites’ Past in the Religious and Temporal Media


8.  Before the establishment of the state of Lebanon and prior to the appearance of radio, television and the Internet, the Maronites played a major role in the world of journalism which was one of the most important beacons of culture and the political awakening in the Arab World.  As a matter of fact, in 1858, Khalil Gubrael al-Khoury, a Maronite, released Hadiqat Al Akhbar, (Garden of News) the first political and literary newspaper in Syria and Lebanon.  Sons of the Lebanese Mountain, and Maronites in their forefront, established the majority of the political, educational and scientific periodicals in Egypt in the last quarter of the nineteenth century and the first quarter of the twentieth century, that is, after the migration of a great number of intellectuals from “ash-Shawam” (land of Syria) to Egypt.  Their number reached 82 periodicals, between newspapers and magazines,[18] the earliest of which was the weekly Wadi An-Nil, (Valley of the Nile) established by Habib Gharzouzi in 1866.  For his part, Count Rachid Dahdah, who in 1858, founded the Bargis Paris in Paris, a political bi-monthly magazine, the very first Arabic periodical in France, was critical of the Ottomans, advocating the French.  It was characterized by its artfulness and the variety of its content.  In 1892, in New York, Ibrahim and Najib ‘Arbili published the bilingual (Arabic-English) Qawqab America (Planet America),[19] the first newspaper in North America, and through it they stirred up the spirit of liberation in the Lebanese and Syrian people.  Wadi’ Cham’oun founded As-Salaam (Peace) newspaper in 1902.  It was the oldest and longest lasting Arabic newspapers in Argentina.  In North America alone, the number of newspapers started by Lebanese amounted to 102; in South America, 166.[20]  The Jesuits too, founded, in 1870, Al-Bashir (The Herald) newspaper, the first Arabic language Catholic weekly, followed by Khalil al-Badawi in 1880, with the Catholic monthly Al-Kanisa al-Katholikia, (The Catholic Church) before launching Al-Ahwal (The Situations) in 1891, the first Arabic newspaper ever to be issued twice a day.  Among other newspapers, was Al-Marounia Al-Fatat, (The Maronite Girl), with a Maronite orientation, tackling religious and social issues, published by Youssef Khattar Hatem 1908, and Ash-Shams, (The Sum) a political newspaper that Esber al-Ghorayyeb started in Buenos Aires in 1905, before releasing it in Beirut as a magazine after World War I.  As for the Maronite Lebanese Missionaries (The Kreimists), they founded in 1930, Al-Manara (The Lighthouse), the first Maronite magazine specialized in religious sciences.  The late Patriarch Antoun ‘Arida declared it “the magazine of the Maronite Patriarchate” in a letter that headed the first issue.  The Maronite Lebanese Missionaries in 1911, Buenos Aires were the first among the countries of emigration to found a Maronite pastoral magazine.  It bore the name “El Misionero” (The Missionary), after the Kreimists brought an Arabic character press to Argentina in 1910.


9.  This Arabic tongue journalism, carried primarily on the shoulders of the Maronites, contributed, in a decisive manner, to the spread of the spirit of independence and resistance to the Ottoman occupation.  Lebanese journalists such as the martyrs Said Akl, and Philip and Farid    Al-Khazen, have paid the blood tax for the sake of freeing the Lebanese from Ottoman tyranny.  After establishing the state of Greater Lebanon in 1920, some of the newspapers abroad returned to the motherland, however only a few of them were able to hold out, to have been provided with the conditions necessary for continuity.  After the declaration of independence of Lebanon in 1943, some of the newspapers close to the Maronite Church tried to augment their circulation and their power to influence and guide, but they could not last.[21]  In contrast, their counterparts played a major role in establishing the fledgling Lebanese entity on firm foundations, mainly, safeguarding public freedoms and promoting concord between the Lebanese spiritual families.  In the sixties and the seventies, numerous pioneer journalists paid with their lives the high price of preserving the independence of the word and its power to exercise a supervisory role over the performance of the public authorities.  In this way, and before the 1975 war, Lebanese journalism embodied the golden era of freedoms and values for the sake of which the Maronites strove to anchor, that their country may remain the lung of the Arab World and a model of equality in dignity and rights for its citizens.  The Lebanese media structure was completed with the foundation of “Radio of the Levant” in 1938, which carried the name “Radio Liban” from 1946, and “Tele Liban” in 1957.


10.  With the break out of war in Lebanon in 1975, the media scene experienced a radical change exemplified by the state losing its exclusive authority over the audio and visual media in favor of some of the fait accompli forces on the ground.  Soon after, these latter, along with other illegal forces, founded for themselves many private television stations and tens of radio stations.  Then, Lebanon witnessed a media boom, rather, a media chaos in desperate need of organization.  The new state of affairs gave birth to some 52 television stations and 100 radio stations, all unlicensed.  This resulted in the waning of the written press, the choicest of media forms, in favor of the audio and visual media, the more popular and easily accessible.  Then, the stifling economic crisis threw its weight on journalism significantly reducing its income, particularly with a decline in advertising income, which made most of them a hostage to financial and political influences.


11.   Meanwhile, some of the Maronites in Lebanon sought to create a media that would be able to resist the vicious cycle of violence and to bring the Good News to the Maronites and the Eastern Christians worldwide, specifically, to all Christians in the Antiochean Domain, who lacked any local media spring to drink from so as to refresh their Christian spiritual life.  So, the Congregation of Maronite Lebanese Missionaries launched the radio station “Voice of Charity” in 1984.  In addition, “Télé Lumière” TV station started broadcasting religious programs as of 1991 through an initiative on the part of “the Congregation of the Children of the Church,” consisting of committed Christian lay people.  Furthermore, a number of Maronite eparchies in the countries of the expansion founded periodical pastoral magazines, such as Al Murssal (The Missionary), in Argentina in 1979, after a long cessation, and The Maronite Voice was established in the Eparchy of Saint Maron (Brooklyn, New York), in 1994.  This was followed by the magazine Maronites Today in the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon (Los Angeles) in 1995.  Also in 1994, the association of “The National Apostolate of Maronites” in the United States issued a periodical called NAM-News. 


Chapter Three:

The Maronite Church and the Present Status

of the Religious and Temporal Media


12.  The Lebanese media still represents the most important medium for the Maronite Church to convey the Good News through the usage of modern means of communication.  In Lebanon, bulletins and periodical publications are so numerous that it is difficult to keep accurate track of their number.  Moreover, the temporal media itself dedicates a broad space to religious news and some newspapers consecrate whole pages to the issue of religion and confessions.  We may say that the media in Lebanon is still interested, to a large extent, in the Christian religious aspect with the presence of a number of distinguished Christian media personnel seeking to live their vocation in loyalty to the spirit of the Gospel, giving due concern to the coverage of Christian events and Christian positions.  Furthermore, we must praise the contribution of Maronite media personnel who are working in numerous Arabic, French, English, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese speaking media institutions and others across five continents.  They are an efficacious energy and a source of pride, and our Church would do good to cooperate with them in an active manner toward a sincere Maronite testimony in the service of the truth.  


First:  The Present Status of the Temporal Media in Lebanon


a)       Status of the Written Media


13.  During and after the war, Lebanese journalism, after having endured serious interference in its affairs, including threats of shutdowns and physical abuse of its personnel culminating in martyrdom for some, causing a number of them to leave the country or to seek political asylum abroad, it regained part of its glamour and credibility.  However, in some instances, it is still stuck in an excessive state of political subordination, and therefore is unable to keep the required distance for an objective and critical focus.  As a result of monetary pressures linked to the prevailing economic conditions, the predomination of the visual media and stiff competition from a multitude of shallow periodicals resorting to sensationalism, seeking purely commercial goals, Lebanese journalism also suffers from monetary subordination costing it a chunk of its freedom and objectivity.  Also, the current Lebanese Publications Law remains tainted with many a loop hole especially by way of increased restrictions on the granting of licenses for the founding of new political periodicals.  Lebanese journalism is still paying the highest of prices, that of the lives of its people in defense of its freedom, distinctive in the Arab World.  The Maronite Church while highly praising this unique achievement, bows in honor before every single drop of blood that all media persons, headed by journalists, gave up in loyalty to freedom and the truth.


b)      Status of the Audio and Visual Media


14.  With regard to the audio and visual media sector, efforts to organize the chaotic conditions produced by the recent war, did not measure up to expectations.  As a matter of fact, the Audio and Visual Media Organization Law of 1994,[22] was promulgated in contradiction with the provisions of Article 19 of the International Charter on Civil and Political Rights, to which Lebanon was a signatory nation in 1972.  The Human Rights Commission charged with supervising member state compliance with this charter confirmed this state of affairs in its report in 1997, criticizing the Lebanese authorities for “the absence of just and objective standards governing the granting of licenses” and “the creation of two distinct categories of television and radio stations, the first having the right to broadcast news and political programs, the second, not enjoying this right, and this is unjustified,” and “the limiting of the number of media outlets and that of the freedom of expression.”  The Maronite Church adopts this rightful international position without reservations, vindicating the recommendation of the Commission submitted to the Lebanese authorities which states that the said law and its implementation decree should be reviewed and amended so as to be in conformity with the provisions of the international charter, and the need to “erect an independent authority to grant broadcasting licenses, enjoying the competence to study applications and issue licenses in accordance with reasonable and objective standards.”[23]


15.  As a result of the 1994 Law, licenses were distributed to television and radio stations, on the basis of sectarian feudal quotas.  Even though some of the owners of these stations are sons and daughters of our Maronite Church and they dedicate part of their programs to religious occasions and to a number of spiritual topics deserving praise, however, like the others, their first concern remains dictated by market logic and dedicated to attracting viewers or listeners for the sake of assuring advertising returns, without adequate consideration for the requirements of ethical broadcasting.  Despite all this, the Church remains solicitous to cooperate with these stations, and with others, for the purpose of tackling critical human issues of concern to the Lebanese and the Arab individual, yet, be in harmony with Christian principles and current civil values, such as human rights issues, the family, women, the child, the wounded with disabilities, consolidating civics and education, social justice, the development of peoples, solidarity between nations, the preservation of the environment and building world peace on the foundations of truth, justice, freedom and love.


16.  An extremely important development on the Lebanese media map is the sprouting of satellite channels.  With this achievement, the world’s media space in its entirety has become open before individuals, families and communities in Lebanon, and in turn, the Lebanese media yield has become accessible to the whole wide world.  This reality promises man an unfathomable cultural wealth and encourages him to open up to the values of other civilizations, and broadens his perspective on life and on existence.  All these are praiseworthy achievements, except that it also warns of dangers to the family in the marketing of violence, licentiousness and glittering empty-of-meaning insinuations which could lead to a gradual detraction in personality, alienating a person from respect for his inherent primordial dignity and that of his fellow human.  Our Church is aware that her duty is to derive benefit from this colossal instrument to convey the Christian spiritual life, religious formation and morality to Christians and to others in the remotest corners of the Antiochean Domain and the world of the expansion.  She also calls upon parents and educators, in united solidarity with her, to remain focused on enlightening the generations of the youth to utilize satellite borne facilities with wisdom, insight and discernment.


c)       Status of the Electronic Media


17.  The cutting edge media in Lebanon nowadays is the internet, which the Church describes as being “put to many good uses now, with the promise of many more.”[24]  Since this network has basically become available to all, it has produced a genuine revolution in the world of communication and the media alike.  Activists in the human rights field, for example, see in the electronic mail and in the informational services of the internet, the modern gunpowder that will demolish the last fortresses of the remaining oppressive regimes in the world.  Scientists find in it the best means for the rapid exchange of expertise between them and to pass on the latest scientific discoveries to the heart of each home.  For that reason our Church cautions the Lebanese public authorities of the necessity of opening up this facility to all, rather than handing over the electronic relays to a minority of monopolists.  


18.  One of the problems posed by the internet is that it contains sites inciting on hatred and the defamation of religious and ethnic groups.  Some try to harm the Church.  These sites, as with pornography and violence in the visual media, are “reflections of the dark side of a human nature marred by sin.”[25]  This issue takes on a particular importance in a country like Lebanon which respects freedom of expression, while at the same time is careful to preserve harmony between the different spiritual families and ethnic groups.  Therefore, we declare in solidarity with the Universal Church that “while respect for free expression may require tolerating even voices of hatred up to a point, industry self-regulation and, where required, intervention by public authority, should establish and enforce reasonable limits to what can be said.”[26]


d)      Status of the Advertising Sector


19.  Real prosperity in the advertising sector in Lebanon began in the fifties of the twentieth century and today forms a vital service and one of the most productive in the Lebanese services sector.  In general, like in the media, we may say that in advertising, “There is nothing intrinsically good or intrinsically evil about advertising.  It is a tool, an instrument: it can be used well, and it can be used badly.[27]  True, that in Lebanon its negative side prevails, in form and content, where giant advertising billboards randomly and crushingly invade public areas at the expense of the organizations of the building structures; and sometimes with contents infringing on taste or moral values, in addition to clamored or merchandized advertisements targeting women on television screens.  However, the matter is also not void of its positive aspects.  It is not uncommon to find an advertisement promoting a high quality intellectual, artistic or literary product.  Some advertisements support marginalized sectors of society, and still others are refreshing in their wit, good taste or entertainment capability. 


20.  The Maronite Church considers that all sectors of society, whether public or private, religious or temporal, must collaborate in directing the advertising sector toward providing the consumer with objective news, contribute to the attainment of a more humane living standard for all, and foster advertisements abounding with values of faith, patriotism, openness to the other despite the difference, compassion for neighbor, charity toward the needy, fighting illiteracy and solidarity with the disabled.  Pope Paul VI, in fact, went so far as to prompt Catholic institutions to “follow with constant attention the development of the modern techniques of advertising and... know how to make opportune use of them in order to spread the Gospel message in a manner which answers the expectations and needs of contemporary man.[28]


Second: Present Status of the Religious Media in Lebanon and Worldwide


a)       Status of the Written Media


21.  The office of the International Union of the Catholic Press in Lebanon counted up to 2002, 68 main Christian periodicals: weeklies, monthlies and quarterlies.[29]  The majority of these are in Arabic, but a few are in French, English and Armenian.  Their topics cover various fields:  pastoral studies, religious sciences, catechetical instruction, liturgical life, scriptural research, patristic studies, monastic life, ecumenical dialogue, inter-religious dialogue, social questions, theology, spiritual guidance for the disabled, Syriac heritage, Byzantine heritage, Christian formation for adults, spirituality, vocations of the laity, religious history, consecrated and sacerdotal life, Mariology, and current issues (globalization, enculturation, and the new evangelization).  This abundance proves that the spread of broadcasting and electronic mediums have not cancelled the written religious means in Lebanon which remained quite dynamic.  In any case, it would be a gross illusion if we were to believe that “advanced means could be within the reach of the six billion people constituting mankind, anytime soon.  For this reason, the Church, friend of the poor, remains by their side giving them priority in service and charity.”[30]  As regards Maronite magazines, it is worth noting that “The Patriarchal Magazine” is out again as of the beginning of 2004, making it accessible for the benefit of believers and in serving documentation aims similar to those of the weekly L’Osservatore Romano in the Vatican.


22.  The Journal of Maronite Studies was a remarkable research periodical in English began under the supervision of The Maronite Research Institute in the United States in 1997, before it ceased publication in 2001.  Since the beginning of 2005, the two Maronite eparchies in the U.S decided to unite their publications under one title: The Maronite Voice.  Currently, circulation is 10,000 copies per month, to be increased to 30,000 copies after statistics on the number of Maronites living in the United States of America are complete.  There is also the St. Maron Publications, a publishing house which provides those concerned with valuable references pertaining to the history of the Maronite Church, its theology, liturgy and spirituality.  With respect to eparchies in other countries of the expansion, the Maronite Church in Australia established in 2003, the eparchial magazine Marounia, in both Arabic and English to be a channel of connection between the Maronite parishes there.


b)      Status of the Audio and Visual Media: “Noursat,” “Télé Lumière” and “Voice of      Charity”


23.  The Christian visual media address most prominent in Lebanon and the world is “Télé Lumière” and its alternate satellite, “Noursat.”  They fall under the umbrella of the Council of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops in Lebanon, and are under the supervision of the Episcopal Committee for the Media, according to a protocol of cooperation organizing relations between the ecclesiastical authority and the administration of the establishment, which includes religious functionaries from all the Christian Churches and from committed lay people.  Following negotiations with the Lebanese authorities after the promulgation of the Audio and Visual Media Organization Law of 1994, which left no provision for the establishment of non-profit media stations, the Lebanese Council of Ministers issued a compromise decree in 1996, granting the Council of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops in Lebanon through “Télé Lumière” the right to broadcast on one of the channels of the official television station under the name “Télé Lumière – Télé Liban;” in the framework of a special reorganization of the religious media encompassing all confessions in Lebanon, on condition that the establishment is to maintain its financial and administrative independence, freedom of programming and broadcasting under the exclusive supervision of the Council of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops in Lebanon.[31]  As for “Noursat,” it was launched in 2004 after acquiring an independent license.[32]  At the present time, this satellite network covers all of the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, the two Americas, Australia and New Zealand and represents the latest and strongest media tool that the Church in Lebanon has to spread its evangelizing message and its social teaching.[33]


24.  As for the audio media available to the Church, it is the “Voice of Charity,” which is under the supervision of the Congregation of Maronite Lebanese Missionaries.  Like ‘Télé Lumière,” the “Voice of Charity” is accountable directly to the Council of the Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops in Lebanon, and has the right to broadcast on one of the wavelengths of the official radio station bearing the name “Voice of Charity – Radio Liban” in accordance with the same settlement with the Lebanese authorities.  Its programs cover Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and the Holy Land, has a branch in Australia broadcasting in Arabic and English and is on the internet around the clock.  Its main language is Arabic, but it also broadcasts in French, English, Italian, Armenian, Sri Lankan, Filipino, Ethiopian and other languages.  It also has liturgical programs in Syriac, Latin and ancient Greek, and broadcasts some Vatican Radio programs through twinning with “Radio Maria” in Italy.  We note as well that the official Lebanese radio station along with some private radio stations broadcast various religious programs on a daily basis.


25.  “Télé Lumière” and the “Voice of Charity” are tremendously successful when it comes to refreshing the believers’ spiritual and liturgical life, fostering Christian formation, religious culture, ecumenical harmony and constructive dialogue with all religions, confessions and intellectual trends, contributing to the expounding of the social teaching of the Church, propagating the values of justice and peace and defending the dignity and rights of the human person.  Both stations enjoy a good reputation and have a high percentage of viewers and listeners, even in non-Christian circles in Lebanon, the Arab World and the countries of the expansion.  They strive to stay abreast of technological advances in broadcasting aiming to widen their area of coverage.  It is obvious that they have now become an invaluable performing instrument for the Maronite Mother Church, the eparchies in the Patriarchal domain, as well as for the eparchies of the expansion.  They are to the first a most favorable arena in which to execute the testimony of love and freedom in a pluralistic society; to the second, a vital means to live the daily religious obligations and absorb the teachings of the Gospel and the Church in a non-Christian environment; and to the third, a springhead from which to derive the spirituality of the eastern heritage and its cultural characteristics and a way to strengthen ties with the mother Church.


c)       Status of the Electronic Media


26.  With the advent of the internet, the number of the websites of eparchies, parishes, religious orders and Maronite institutions, movements and organizations have increased tremendously in Lebanon, the Patriarchal See and the world of the expansion, and it has become very difficult to count them all.  Some of these websites are of such quality as far as organization and diversity are concerned that they are rendering commendable service to all Maronite believers, such as the website of the “Eastern Catholic Churches”[34] or that of the “Maronite Patriarchal Synod.”[35]  As a result of the vast expanses of some of the areas in some Maronite eparchies of the expansion, the internet was made use of to convey electronic images of the eparchial magazine to the faithful (Australia, Argentina).  One Maronite Lebanese Missionary Father made use of the internet and e-mail to carry out an accurate and unprecedented census of the families of Lebanese descent in Argentina, searching for all their roots and branches.[36]  The two eparchies in the United States followed suit, in conformity with the recommendations of the present Maronite Patriarchal Synod.  Furthermore, a Maronite Mariamite monk erected a detailed website on Maronite heritage in English.[37]  All issues of The Journal of Maronite Studies are now on the internet in the hope of launching it again.[38]  There are other important projects under way such as “Gospel without borders” with educational objectives aimed at all.  Most Maronite eparchies nowadays are working to link their parishes one to the other via electronic sites.


d)      Ecclesiastical Institutions of a Media Character


27.  Beside its media capabilities, the Church in Lebanon owns many ecclesiastical institutions with media characteristics.  At the head is the Episcopal Commission for Social Communications, an arm of the Council of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops in Lebanon.  Even though this commission operates in the name of the Catholic Churches exclusively, it is in constant cooperation with all other Christian and Muslim confessions and with other civil media sectors.  Branching off from this commission is an executive panel, the Catholic Media Center, established in 1978; also linked to it is the office of the International Union of the Catholic Press in Lebanon, launched in 1997.  It is neither a news agency nor any media station, rather a committee for coordination, encouragement, follow up, supervision, and the like.  It encompasses specialized branches in the fields of the press, radio, television, cinema, and audio-visual means, and in addition to the Catholic Media Center a branch for documentation and another for publications.  It celebrates World Communications Day introducing on this occasion the message of the Supreme Pontiff with its Arabic translation, disseminating it through the media.  Moreover, it supervises the translation of papal documents into Arabic and publishes them.  As for the International Union of the Catholic Press in Lebanon, it strives to support media orientation initiatives, encouraging Christian media presence in Lebanon and the Arab World on the premise of openness to confessions and to religions and on defending public freedoms, particularly media freedoms.  Lastly, it is noteworthy to point out that there are numerous media institutes or those with media characteristics in the Catholic universities in Lebanon.  These are institutes that, along with their counterpart in public and private universities, play an essential role in the formation of specialists in the various media and advertising domains. 


Third: Difficulties and Challenges at the Core of the Current State of Affairs of the Media


28.  In its two sections, the temporal and the religious, the media sector today stands facing crucial difficulties touching it at the core of its authentic calling, which goes beyond plain notification and information and is as a “means “devised under God’s Providence for the promotion of communication and communion among human beings during their earthly pilgrimage.”[39]  A section of the contemporary temporal media faces the challenges of becoming hostage to mammon, subordinate to influence, relinquishing values for the sake of a quick profit, surrendering to fleeting impulses, shying away from commitment to the truth in the conveyance and the analyzing of events and abandoning the rearing of unity and peace among the people.  As far as the religious media is concerned, it faces challenges brought about by a deficiency in vocational professionalism, improvisation in presentation and criticism, lagging in the covering of events, excessiveness in rendering advice, indulgence in generalizing at the expense of objectivity, and abstinence from the contrivance of media expressions and patterns that are in sync with the spirit of the epoch.


29.  If the media is aware of its authentic calling, it must be prophetic, that is, conveying content that conforms to the absolute truth and the ultimate good regardless of cost.  Also, if the Church is aware of her maternal role toward the world, she must read the new signs of times that have surfaced with a globalized media, entering into a sincere and favorable interaction with the media and its people; comprehending its specific technologies and genius, bringing forth support for those specialized in it, rather developing “an anthropology and a theology of communication -- not least, so that theology itself may be more communicative, more successful in disclosing Gospel values and applying them to the contemporary realities of the human condition.”[40]  This way, she can influence from within, the dynamics of globalization structured by today’s media, instituting “a globalization which will be at the service of the whole person and of all people.”[41]


Chapter Four:

A Futuristic Perspective of the Religious and Temporal Media


30.  In the light of this expansive portrayal, our Maronite Patriarchal Synod desires to search for a futuristic vision overflowing with hope for both the religious and the temporal media touching Maronites, because in the end, these two sectors are two aspects of the one goal, which is, declaring the truth out of love for the benefit of people and in the service of their unity.  Pope John Paul II says: “It is the task of communication to bring people together and enrich their lives, not to isolate and exploit them.  The means of social communication, properly used, can help to create and sustain a human community based on justice and charity; and, in so far as they do that, they will be signs of hope.”[42]


First: Toward an Ethical Media Charter


31.  Maronite men and women in the media are dispersed throughout a large number of media institutions with disparate trends.  While it is their duty to comply with the teachings of the Catholic Church, in addition to being faithful to the ethics of their profession, our Synod desires to draw up the guidelines for an ethical media charter recommending that it would be expanded, hoping for its adoption at a later date.  The following are some of its more important principles:

-          Being inspired by the Maronite spirituality in its fundamental elements as mentioned in the other Synodal texts.

-          Commitment to the social teachings of the Church.

-          Commitment to the values that distinguish Lebanon the Mission: plurality, freedom, authentic human dignity and respect for human rights.

-          Commitment to the noble social values: holiness of the family, woman’s status and her equality with man, brotherhood, solidarity, hospitality, contentment, clinging to the land,      acceptance of the other, thorough study of the heritage and respect for the environment. 

-          Promotion of cultural and developmental values: love of and quest for knowledge and its dissemination, openness to other cultures, pioneering cultural renaissance, fostering economic progress and social advancement, taking the needs of other peoples into consideration, and deepening the roots in the Arab Eastern civilization with continued openness to other civilizations and religions and the heritage of the world.

-          Counteracting corrupt media that promotes consumerism, opposing the transformation of women into a commodity, violence, and the glorification of authority.


Second: Toward Promoting the Freedom of the Temporal Media in Lebanon and                                   Supporting its Faithfulness to the Truth


32.  Our Church is committed to raising her voice high toward liberating the temporal media in Lebanon from any discretionary censorship.  Despite the broad margin of freedom which the Lebanese media enjoys, we find in the Lebanese Publications Law and the Audio and Visual Media Organization Law defects directly affecting this freedom and contradicting the Lebanese constitution in both text and spirit.  For this reason, our Church joins its voice to that of the International Commission on Human Rights, affiliated to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, not to be lax in setting up an independent civil body of specialists in law and in the audio visual media charged with granting media licenses to deserving institutions in accordance with set objective standards.  Our Church also calls upon public authorities to cancel the close to impossible terms preventing the founding of political newspaper in Lebanon.


33.  On a different level, and after the significant growth of the role of the media in negatively impacting public opinion, voices are beginning to demand that “a counter authority” be established consisting of forces active in civil society charged with supervising the working mechanism of the media to guarding it against veering.  Here also, our Church commits to assuming a decisive role in fostering the faithfulness of the media to the truth and in remaining vigilant not to exceed the bounds of human dignity, that of peoples or of ethnic groups in the name of a freedom without bounds.  In this context, our Church reiterates its pledge to remain a prophetic voice that lies vigilant to monitor any violation of human rights for the purpose of denouncing it and rectifying matters.


Third:  Toward a Better Christian Media


34.  There are gaps within the Christian media that everybody agrees must be dealt with.  First, there is feebleness when it comes to making use of the cinema as a media tool.  In fact, for decades, not a single long film worth mentioning has been produced in the Christian media sector, considering that the movie industry is one of the media arts most attractive to people and has the most efficacious influence on knowledge, behavior and evangelization.  Second, in some cases, there is sluggishness in adopting professional competence as a yardstick for assuming responsibilities in the Christian media, and this is forcefully present in some cases in the visual media; therefore, it must be averted. Third, there is an urgent need to provide basic media education to Maronite youth at schools, institutions, universities and seminaries, aimed at enlightenment toward the good use of media material, selecting what is best.  Fourth, there is benefit to be derived from reinforcing cooperation between the Christian media and the civil public media which is presently under the supervision of the state and remains, to a large extent, free from market economy control.  Fifth, there is a fundamental necessity to review the legal status of “Télé Lumière” and the “Voice of Charity” as a prelude to granting an independent license for each of them similar to that of “Noursat.”  Sixth, it is hoped that efforts between these three institutions be coordinated for the purpose of exchanging capabilities and programs so as to economize on resources.  Seventh, it is advisable to draw up a smart and permanent plan to provide substantial financial support to these institutions, additional to donations from the faithful in Lebanon and in the countries of the expansion.  Eighth, it is required that a detailed guide be compiled of all Maronites working in the various media sectors in and outside Lebanon, erecting a network of contact and cooperation between them.  Ninth, it is imperative that a comprehensive and methodical survey of Maronite media outlets in Lebanon and worldwide, erecting a mechanism of cooperation and coordination between them.  Finally, there is that desire that the subject of the media be given the attention it deserves in the Maronite Patriarchal and episcopal writings as it is with Papal letters. 




35.  “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will render an account for every careless word they speak.  By your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37).  This is how Jesus reminds us that media is firstly and lastly a moral act, and that concerning the truth, we will be held accountable for what we have said as much as for what we have withheld.  That is why our Church wants to walk side by side with the folks of the media to serve the human family through light and truth.  She recalls the words of Pope John Paul II to the journalists in the Jubilee Year to say to her Maronite sons and daughters, the media folks, that “it is possible to be both authentic Christians and excellent journalists.[43]


36.  The Maronite Church prays to her Redeemer, the Master of media “The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him” (John 1:18), so that globalization, coming on the saddle back of the media, may be an instrument of world wide unity among civilizations and peoples that the spiritual and material resources of the earth become one common heritage for all in a harmonious dynamism of unity and diversity.  She places her trust in all media men and women of good will that they may be witnesses to the truth and to the respect of the dignity of man.  Our Church invokes Mary, the See of Wisdom and the Repository of the Divine Word, to inspire her, following her example, the grace of informing the earth of the splendor of life and its joy, because a Christ from Jerusalem prophesied of a new star.












1. Role of the Church in accompanying the media.


1. The Church remains faithful to her calling that she may be the prophetic voice that monitors all human rights infringements and directs the truth.


1.a: Promulgating Patriarchal letters and episcopal directives concerning the media.


1.b: Shed light on infringements and transgressions.



2. Guide for the Media and its Personnel. 


2. The Synod recommends carrying out a comprehensive methodic survey of Maronite media and Maronite media personnel for better coordination and  performance.


2. Preparing a detailed guide book of Maronite media in Lebanon and the countries of the expansion on the one hand, and of Maronite media personnel in the various media sectors, on the other hand.



3. Ethical Media Charter.


3. The Synod recommends efforts to crystallize the guidelines of an ethical media charter emanating from Maronite spirituality and the catechetical principles of the Catholic Church.


3. Establishing a committee composed of committed specialized media personnel and clergy concerned with preparing a guide book to be a charter and a reference for the Maronite media personnel while executing his /her duties.



4. Media Licenses.


4. Our Church joins her voice to that of the International Commission on Human Rights, affiliated to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in calling for the granting of media licenses to deserving institutions in accordance with objective standards.


4.a: Striving toward having the government form an independent national commission composed of specialists in law and in the audio visual media field, to be charged with granting licenses.


4.b: Work toward promulgation of legislation for Tele Lumière and the Voice of Charity.



5. Monitor the Performance of the Media.



5. The Synod recommends erection of a commission whose mission is to monitor the performance of the media in order to ward off transgressions.


5. To congregate active civil society forces such as parents associations, media personnel, clergy and civil organizations to monitor the media productions, voicing opinions, and mobilizing public opinion when necessary.



6. Media Education.


6. The Synod recommends providing media education to the youth in schools, institutes, universities and seminaries aimed at enlightenment toward the good use of media material and selecting what is best.


6.a: Incorporating media formation in its different facets as a curricular subject at universities and formation centers.


6.b: Working with school students to acquire skills in the proper selection and the sense of criticism through workshops and roundtable dialogue.



7. Standards and Specifications for Media Personnel and Media Heads.


7. The Synod recommends that the religious media should not be slack in employing the standards of professional qualifications and ecclesiastical commitment when selecting media personnel and media heads.




7.a: Each religious media outlet is to draft the standards and specifications required of an applicant for each position, taking into consideration professional qualifications and ecclesiastical commitment.


7.b: Call upon the Episcopal Committee for the Media, commissioned by the Council of Patriarchs and Bishops, to consolidate its supervision of the outlets entrusted to it, and to give its opinion of their heads.



8. The Catholic Media Center.


8. The Synod recommends the reinforcement and the evolvement of the Catholic Media Center.


8. Call upon the Episcopal Committee for the Media to support the Center, to exercise its authority, and to supply it with the appropriate manpower and material capabilities.



9. Cinema and the Good News.


9. The Synod recommends that producers, directors and actors give the movie sector outstanding attention because of its effect on viewers in conveying the Good News.


9.a: Helping professional actors especially, the Maronite, to produce movies that have proper content.


9.b: Urging audio visual faculties and schools at Maronite universities to produce short religious films and to set up tournaments and grant appreciation prizes.




[1].  The Vatican II Council Conciliar Decree Inter Mirifica (Decree on the Means of Social Communication), No.1

[2].  Ibid, No. 2.

[3].  Ibid, No. 12.

[4].  Ibid, No. 15.

[5].  Ibid.

[6].  Ibid, No. 21.

[7].  Ibid, No. 18.

[8].  Pope Paul VI, Apostolic Letter Motto Proprio: In fructibus multis, 2 April 1964.

[9].  Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Constitution: Pastor Bonus, 28 June 1988.

[10].  Pope Pius XII, Pastoral Letter on 14 February 1957.

[11].  Pastoral Instruction: Communio et Progressio, (On the Means of Social Communication) 23 May 1971, through a special mandate by Conciliar Decree Inter Mirifica (Decree on the Means of Social Communication), No. 23.

[12].  Ibid, No. 2.

[13].  Ibid, No. 126.

[14].  Ibid, No. 128.

[15].  Pornography and Violence in the Communications Media, 7 May1989, Criteria for Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Cooperation in Communications, 4 October 1989, Aetatis Novae (New Era) (on the twentieth anniversary of the promulgation of Communio et Progressio), 22 February 1992, Ethics in Advertising, 22 February 1997, Ethics in Communications, 2 June, 2000, Ethics in Internet, 22 February 2002, The Church and Internet, 22 February 2002.

[16].  Pope John Paul II, Apostolic letter The Rapid Development, 24 January 2005, No. 3.

[17].  Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation: A New Hope for Lebanon, 10 May 1997, No. 111.

[18].  As-Sahafa al-Lubnania Magazine (Lebanese Journalism), diamond jubilee, No. 28, May 1998, p. 97.

[19].  Al-Huda (The Guidance) followed in 1898, was one of the most important and lasting Arabic language American weeklies.  Na’oum Moukarzel, a Maronite, founded it.

[20].  As-Sahafa al-lubnania magazine, o.cit., p. 98.

[21].  Nida’ Al Watan (The Call of the State) newspaper founded by Elias Ghiryafi was able to hold out from 1966 to 1968, and Ash-Shira’ (The Sail) magazine, owned by Father Antoine Qortbawi and Antoun Nehmé could hold out from 1948 till 1961 (it replaced Al-Bashir when it ceased operations in 1947). Nida’ Al-Watan reappeared for a short while before its current cessation.

[22].  That is law 382 (November 1984) that entered into force pursuant to the applied decree 7997 (May 1996).

[23].  The final remarks of the Commission on Human Rights (on the report concerning Lebanon presented on 8 June 1996), 7 April 1997.

[24].  Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Ethics in Internet, 22 February 2002, No. 2.

[25].  Pontifical Council for Social Communications, The Church and Internet, 22 February 2002, No. 8.

[26].  Ibid.

[27].  Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Ethics in Advertising, 22 February 1997, No. 9.

[28].  Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Ethics in Advertising, 22 February 1997, No. 8.

[29].  International Union of the Catholic Press in Lebanon, the Christian Magazine Guide, March 2002

[30].  Ibid, p.  6.

[31].  Carrying ministerial decree No. 33, promulgated on 15 October 1996.

[32].  Decree from the Ministry of Communications, No. 447/1, dated 11 October 2004.

[33].  There are other stations outside Lebanon broadcasting in Arabic, such as SAT 7 and Al Hayat. However, some differ in their trends from the openness and objectivity that the Maronite Church, in particular, and the Catholic Church, in general, seeks. 

[34].  The website is It gives a detailed image of the structure and activities of the Catholic Churches in Lebanon and the Middle East.

[35].  The website is It gives a detailed image of the reality of the Maronite Church around the world. It also includes “The Maronite Network,” which is the link between the mother Church and the Maronites in expansion and speaks in five languages.

[36].  He is Father Hannoun Andraos.

[37].  The website is Designed by the Mariamite monk Father Antonio Feghali.

[38].  The website is

[39].  Pastoral Instruction Aetatis Novae, No. 8.

[40].  Ibid.

[41].  Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Ethics in Internet, 22 February 2002, No. 10.

[42].  Pope John Paul II, Message on the occasion of the 32nd World Communications Day, 24 January 1998, No. 4.

[43].  Pope John Paul II, Jubilee of Journalists, Address to the journalists on their jubilee, 4 June 2000, No. 5.