Catholic Church goes on TV with own station

Manila, Philippines - THE CATHOLIC Church hierarchy has launched its own television station called "TV Maria" amid aggressive proselytizing by other Philippine-based Christian sects on television.

It joins the Iglesia ni Cristo (Net 25 and Gem TV), Ang Dating Daan (block timer on UNTV 37 and RJTV) and Jesus Is Lord (QTV 11) in using television to reach out to members and possible converts.

The Archdiocese of Manila, backed by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), quietly launched TV Maria on New Year's Day on Channel 21, said Monsignor Hernando Coronel, CBCP secretary general.

Channel 21 is supported by Dream Satellite TV of businessman Antonio "Tonyboy" Cojuangco.

TV Maria, the first Catholic channel emanating from Manila, was named so to honor the role of Mary as the one who points the way toward Jesus.

The shows in the new channel, now aired 24 hours daily, are all about Catholic doctrine, family enrichment and the youth.

The CBCP has been getting high media mileage mainly on political issues, particularly the scandal centered on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, according to Coronel.

"We are always visible in the media but this concerns political matters," he told reporters yesterday. "What we are concerned (about) are the values especially in defense of family and life."

TV Maria was launched at a time when a number of high-ranking Church officials have been complaining about how the media, specifically newspapers, have been reporting about Church and religion.

Archbishops Ricardo Cardinal Vidal and Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato earlier sniped at the media for allegedly portraying bishops as divided on political issues. Others like Malolos Bishop Jose Oliveros had come to the defense of Davao Archbishop Fernando Capalla for his supposed soft and vague approach to the political crisis during his incumbency as CBCP president.

Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales and his supporters also fumed over an Inquirer report that Ms Arroyo had surreptitiously donated P1 million to his "Pondo ng Pinoy" project. He said he had no knowledge of the donation but later admitted it went to Radio Veritas.

But TV Maria was apparently not the Church hierarchy's response to what some of its officials claim as unfair reporting by the media.

Coronel said its programs would be geared toward promoting moral values, especially among the young and poor.

"They are the treasures of the Church," he said, noting that the youth and the poor comprise about 50 and 70 percent of the population, respectively.

For a start, programs will include family counseling and the explanation of Church doctrines courtesy of bishops and their corresponding application to the young, the CBCP secretary general said.

"We are trying to strengthen our youth because the future of the Catholic faith relies on (them)," he said.