Sunday, 21 December 2014

SIGNIS - an international public association of the faithful

I noticed a month or so ago, in passing, the recognition by the Pontifical Council for the Laity of the organisation SIGNIS as an international public association of the faithful. A report on SIGNIS website is here.

This recognition does have points of interest. First of all, the organisation that is now known as SIGNIS - "World Catholic Association for Communication" has a long history in two predecessor organisations, one dedicated to the field of radio and television and the other to the field of cinema - see here. The organisation therefore has a background of a genuinely lay engagement of Catholic professionals in these fields of communication, that is, an engagement arising from the professionals themselves and not by delegation from the hierarchy. In the present times of the Church that is something that might be taken for granted, but I suspect that in the early days of the two founder organisations this was something quite novel. [Corrections will be gratefully received in the com box if anyone knows otherwise with regard to the history of these organisations.] The objects of SIGNIS, which are included in their newly approved statutes, are here. The move towards recognition as a public association of the faithful, with an Ecclesiastical Assistant appointed by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, represents an assurance of ecclesial communion alongside the principle of a rightly autonomy of lay expertise in fields that more than many other do require a specialist expertise.

A second point is the way in which SIGNIS contributes to the professional development of Catholics (and others) in the field of cinema, radio and television. This is of particular significance in less developed countries, where funding and technology will be less available. So, for example, SIGNIS trains colleagues to take part in festival juries.

A third point of interest is the strongly ecumenical dimension to SIGNIS work, both in practice and as expressed in its Statutes. One of the most prestigious aspects of SIGNIS work is its presence at major film festivals throughout the world, through a jury that will evaluate films from a Christian perspective (see here). Not infrequently, the juries involved are ecumenical juries - which not only enables a wider Christian dimension but also allows access to a wider range of professional expertise. It is the kind of field in which ecumenical collaboration is almost natural. The presence of these juries - some of them reaching back a long way in the history of the relevant film festival - is, so far as I can tell, accepted readily by festival organisers. It thereby facilitates a dialogue between Christians and their fellow professionals, the presence of Christians in the field being welcomed.

A particular aspect of SIGNIS work that I have found helpful for some time now has been their publication of reviews of, or statements about, recently released films (see here, and the links to recent reviews on this page). Topical at the moment might be their statement on Exodus: Gods and Kings.

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