Havana, December 9th, 2015

To all the members and associates of SIGNIS

Dear Colleagues,

Christmas is coming. Its true spirit, that familiar, contagious feeling of joy, peace and goodwill, is needed now more than ever, in a world afflicted by all sorts of violence. Pope Francis has warned that Christmas is not lights and glitter and parties, adding with sorrow: “…the world continues to wage war. The world has not understood the way of peace.”

The proclamation by Pope Francis of the Year of Mercy, which has begun solemnly just a few days before Christmas, sets us on the path towards the right kind of celebration, one that brings us to care for the needs of our neighbour. It is to that kind of celebration that we in SIGNIS have pledged to contribute, in our own specific way, when we chose our theme for the period leading to our next Congress: “Promoting Stories of Hope though Connectivity”.

We have much to be thankful for. During 2015, SIGNIS has revealed great vitality through the wide variety of programmes developed in our regions and member countries, but mostly at the grassroots level: activities in education for communication and training, the work of community radio stations, renewed efforts in the production of content, particularly in TV programming, a very dynamic participation in media festivals and awards, an active involvement in socially beneficial initiatives and a significant increase in our involvement in social media. These are all signs that the Association is alive and well.

There were also significant developments in the internal life of SIGNIS: our Board of Directors, meeting at the end of May in Trinidad and Tobago, appointed Mr. Ricardo Yáñez, formerly Assistant to the Secretary General, as Acting Secretary General, effective September 1st, 2015. Our former Secretary General, Mr. Alvito de Souza, will pursue a new career in International Development. A well-crafted handover process made the transition very smooth. Even though Ricardo will have the full authority of the office, our statutes require the General Secretary to be elected by the SIGNIS Assembly of Delegates. The Board expressed total confidence in his capacity and experience, and bid him their full support in this new responsibility.

The Board also decided that our next World Congress would be held at Laval University in Quebec City, Canada, in June 2017. After a visit by the Executives and in consultation with Board members, Congress dates were set for June 19th to 23rd, 2017. The 2016 Board meeting will be held at the proposed Congress venue.
In a landmark decision, the Board approved by acclamation that Blessed Archbishop Oscar Romero be declared Patron of SIGNIS and co-Patron of Catholic communicators. The testimony of his life, devoted to the service of the poor and given generously, while claiming ceaselessly for justice for the oppressed, will be an inspiration for all of us.

Finally, also during this year, a long time collaborator and friend, Luis García Orso, a Mexican Jesuit priest, has been designated by the Pontifical Council for the Laity as our Ecclesiastical Assistant. We are very fortunate to have someone so deeply committed for many years to the work of SIGNIS, who has held office at the national and regional level, and is a very active member of the Cinema Desk, appointed for such an important office. We thank Fr. Luis for his generous acceptance of the position and we welcome him as a member of our Board of Directors.

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light (Mt 4, 16). We are that people. As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, the light we have seen and to which we are witnesses, the Lord Jesus being born in Bethlehem, will guide us through the dark times we are experiencing now, as we strive to build, faithful to our motto, and in the true spirit of Christmas, a Culture of Peace.

It is with these feelings that, together with my Vice-Presidents Lawrence John Sinniah and Frank Frost, I wish you all a most holy and joyful Christmas and a very happy New Year 2016.

Gustavo Andújar

President of SIGNIS