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Pope: Church must protect its huge audiovisual archives, media assets

VATICAN CITY — There is real “cultural urgency” for the entire Catholic Church to preserve its audiovisual, documentary and other media archives and assets, Pope Francis said.

Even recently created materials are “a fragile asset that require constant care,” he wrote. “The Catholic Church has already unfortunately lost a major part of the audiovisual documentation that recounts her 19th- and 20th-century history, as a result of neglect and a lack of resources and skills.”

The pope’s comments came in a written message to the recently established Fondazione MAC — Memorie Audiovisive del Cattolicesimo (The Audiovisual Memories of Catholicism Foundation). The message, dated March 3, was published by the Vatican May 2 as foundation members held their first plenary meeting at the Vatican Library.

The technology used in producing audiovisual media “has traveled at great speed, creating a quantity of sounds and images unimaginable a few years ago, documenting the history of the world and of the Church,” the pope wrote. “Today, therefore, it is also time to stop to gather and protect this enormous audiovisual patrimony to embark on a new great process of building a collective memory.”

Formally established in March, the MAC foundation was created to save, preserve and promote the value of audiovisual and other media archives related to Catholicism, the foundation said in a press release May 2.

Its main tasks, it said, include: preservation by encouraging restoration projects, such as digital restorations and digitizing archival materials; increasing accessibility by creating a “common space” online for sharing digitized collections; creating an “online environment” for cultural, academic and educational research projects; fostering scientific collaboration; and exchanging information, best practices and educational models.

Msgr. Dario Viganò, vice chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and president of the foundation, said the idea for the foundation emerged from an interview he conducted with Pope Francis in 2021 about cinema and film. The pope, the monsignor said in the foundation’s press release, had flagged how far behind the Catholic Church was when it came to protecting its audiovisual heritage.

The MAC foundation is cooperating with many renowned institutions like the Vatican Library, Cinecittà and Istituto Luce, Italy’s national film archive. Almost all members of its administrative and scientific committees are leading experts in the field of cinema and archive preservation.

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