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Catholic communicators mourn the death of Robert Molhant

Thursday 14 April 2016, by SIGNIS

Brussels, April, 14th, 2016 (SIGNIS). We regret to announce the sad news that Robert Molhant died unexpectedly in the early hours of April 12th at his home in Brussels. The first Secretary General of SIGNIS (2002-2005) and Secretary General of OCIC, the International Catholic Organization for Cinema, (1979-2002) for over 20 years, he was a creative pioneer in the world of Catholic communications. On his retirement from SIGNIS he took on the Presidency of CREC International, the communications and media training institute formed by Pierre Babin in Lyon in 1971.

The President of SIGNIS Gustavo Andujar, said: “I have just received the sad news of the sudden death of our beloved Robert Molhant. He was a giant of Catholic communications who, with unsurpassed charisma and enlightened vision, knew how to motivate people and mobilize resources to serve the Church effectively in this field, which is vital for the present and the future of evangelization. A dear friend, and a loving father and grandfather, a man of integrity, a good man. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. May he rest in peace.”

During his time with OCIC and then SIGNIS, he sought to extend the reach and influence of both organizations. A man with a warm and generous personality, he had a passion for encouraging the development of Catholic communications around the world and will be sorely missed by his many friends. He made a point of visiting member associations across the globe, offering personal support and encouragement, and so extensive were his travels that one never knew in which part of the world he might turn up next!

Robert was born in Brussels in 1940 and studied literature and cinema at the Catholic University of Louvain, and went on to teach in a secondary school in Brussels. In the late 1960s he was President of the Catholic Youth Council of French-speaking Belgium, then Secretary General of the World Federation of Catholic Youth (FMJC) and chair of the French-speaking Justice and Peace Commission of Belgium. In 1979 he was recruited by Yvonne de Hemptinne to become the first salaried Secretary General of OCIC.

It was the start of a new era in OCIC. With Ambros Eichenberger, OP, as OCIC president he organized a large number of juries (Catholic, ecumenical and interreligious) in film and television festivals around the world: Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Monte-Carlo, Ouagadougou, Teheran etc. He brought new energy to the presence of OCIC members in international juries, not only in Europe but above all in Latin America, as in La Habana and Mar del Plata. He had a particular interest in African cinema and with support from Unesco, OCIC published a collection of books on African cinema.

It was during his time that OCIC and Unda (World Catholic Association for Radio and TV) began to work more closely together and Robert collaborated with a number of Unda Secretary Generals during his time in office. In 1980 the first joint world congress was organized in Asia (Manila) followed by Nairobi (1983), Quito (1987), Bangkok (1990), Prague (1994), Montreal (1998) and Rome (2001). Other notable achievements were the International religious video markets (Chantilly 1986, Lisbon 1988, Driebergen 1992, Cologne 1996, Vilnius 2000 and Rome 2001). The end result was the merger of the two organisations in 2001 and the formation of SIGNIS.

Robert became the first Secretary General of SIGNIS with Peter Malone as the first President. In SIGNIS he brought together the differing experiences and traditions of OCIC and Unda within a broader vision focusing on the theme of media for a culture for peace. In 2005 he stepped down as Secretary General but continued, until the end of 2010, to be responsible for the SIGNIS Television Desk he created.

In 1985 he was appointed a Consultor to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and over twenty years contributed to the preparation many Church documents on the media, including Aetatis Novae (1992), Ethics in Advertising (1997) and The Church and Internet (2002).

To mark his retirement from SIGNIS in 2005 Robert was appointed by the Pope as a Knight Commander of the Order of St Gregory. In December 2006, he was honoured by the Salesian University in Rome with a Doctorate in Social Communications (Honoris Causa) for his contribution to communications. It marked a recognition of his lifetime efforts to ensure that OCIC and then SIGNIS would develop as influential and professional global media organizations, contributing to the development of quality media and endeavouring to give a “voice to the voiceless and a face to the faceless.”

He was a devoted family man, with three children and six grandchildren. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.

Click here if you want to see some of the best moments of Robert’s time at SIGNIS and OCIC.

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