By Jose Kavi
Mumbai, July 17, 2019: Father Jude Botelho, who was part of a team that helped revitalize the Indian Catholic Church’s social communication ministry, died on July 16.
Father Botelho, a Bombay archdiocesan priest who was the secretary of Unda-Asia (now known as Signis), the regional body of the International Catholic Association for Radio and Television, in 1990s, was residing at the Church of Our Lady of Glory in Byculla, a suburb of Mumbai, when he died in his sleep. He was 74.
Father Botelho was “a pioneer of media communications, responsible for starting a media outreach in the Church, through the youth center,” said Father Nigel Barrett, spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Bombay.
“Towards the end, in whichever parish he was, he ensured the cultural heritage as well as the beauty of the buildings were preserved,” he added.
Ordained a priest on October 24, 1970, Father Botelho served the Indian Church in various capacities. He was a member of the team that helped set up the National Institute of Social Communication Research and Training Institute of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI). He became its director later.
In 1993, the CBCI appointed him the first secretary of its media desk when the Church in India took up media relations seriously. The desk aimed to coordinate the countrywide network of Church communications centers and to liaise with secular media.
The media desk was later raised as an office of public relations “to tell the world what the Church is doing, and tell the bishops what the world thinks of our activities.”
For the last five years, Father Botelho, as the parish priest of the Church of Our Lady of Glory, Byculla, popularly known as Gloria Church, was engaged in art history. He had been part of a team that oversaw the construction of St Paul’s Church in Dadar.
In 2014, he helped repair the Church of Our Lady of Health, Cavel, a centuries-old structure whose teakwood interiors were eaten away by white ants.
After completing the repairs in 2016, Father Botelho was moved to Gloria, where helped in the restoration of the 160-foot-tall heritage landmark.
“I think, I should call myself the repairer of old churches,” Father Botelho jokingly said.
As a Church communicator, Father Botelho advocated linking individuals and small institutions engaged in media to form a bigger network that would combat negative influences from giants in the industry. He admitted that these groups could compete with the giants on their own. He wanted the Church to help individuals who work along these lines.
“I think the role of the Church is to help people to understand how media is affecting them, changing their lifestyle and replacing their traditional values and culture. As it is a new environment, the Church has to help them cope with it,” Father Botelho told in a 1993 interview.
On assuming the post of CBCI Media Desk secretary, he said the Church needed a critical understanding of media to face challenges from satellite television.
“Using media for evangelization is not enough, we should integrate the message into the new culture that media has created,” he added.