First Malaysian conferred knighthood by Pope Francis

ROME — The Holy Father on 27 February conferred the title Knight of the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St Sylvester, Pope and Martyr, (one of the five Orders of Knighthood awarded directly by the Pope) on a Malaysian for his contributions to social communication.

Augustine Loorthusamy, the outgoing president of Signis (World Catholic Association for Communication), is the first Malaysian to receive this prestigious award from Pope Francis.

Bestowing this honourable title of knighthood on behalf of the Pope, Pontifical Council for Social Communication (PCSC) president Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli said that Loorthusamy’s knighthood is a “gesture of appreciation.”

“The Holy Father is bestowing such a recognition on people in order to appreciate their works for the good of the people and the Church,” Celli said after awarding Sir Loorthusamy at the closing ceremony of the Signis World Congress 2014 in Rome, Italy. The theme of the Congress was Media for a Culture of Peace: Creating Images with the New Generation.

He said it is good that the Holy Father is giving the honour for Sir Loorthusamy’s dedication and responsible leadership of Signis, which has over 100 member countries worldwide.

“This is a gesture to show the benevolence of the Holy Father, to say how much he appreciates what he has done for Signis.

“The service of Signis in the field of social communication, radio, press, cinema and media production has played a major role in people’s lives; I am talking about digital technology as well,” Celli said.

He stressed that this is a positive sign and that the title gives value to Signis.

Feeling honoured with the title, Sir Loorthusamy expressed his gratitude to Pope Francis for recognising the works and contributions of Signis for the development of communications.

SIGNIS is officially recognised by the Vatican as a Catholic organisation for communication. It is a worldwide, non-governmental organisation of professionals in radio, television, cinema, video media education, Internet, and new technologies.

Sir Loorthusamy, who served two four-year terms (2006-2013) as Signis president, was an ex-officio member of the PCSC, an advisory panel to the Pope on communications and media.

Papal knights do not have specific obligations, but it is customary for them to be invited to participate in major events of their diocese.

Sir Loorthusamy spent two decades (1977-1997) as founder director of the Communications Center of the Asian Social Institute, Manila, Philippines. He served as a member of the Central Committee of the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC), Secretary of WACC’s Asia Region, Vice-President of the International Catholic Organisation for Cinema & Audiovisuals (OCIC), and Special Assistant to Jesuits in Communication in South East, East Asia, and Oceania (JESCOMEAO).

While working with WACC, Sir Loorthusamy coordinated the Philippines phase of the Intercultural Communication Program, a study of communication patterns in developing countries. It aimed to examine the role of traditional forms of group media, their content and use in relation to social change.

He holds a masters Degree in Mass Communication from the University of Leicester, UK, and has more than 30 years experience and expertise in social communications.

He is a trainer in media education, an international resource person on public speaking, and is the author of Talking Straight, a guidebook on effective public speaking.

He is also a trained Buteyko practitioner, helping people with asthma, sinusitis, sleep apnea, and other breathing problems.

Sir Loorthusamy is married to Lady Remedios Calupas Loorthusamy, a Filipina, and they have four children. He and his wife reside in Petaling Jaya, and are parishioners of the neighbouring Kristus Aman Chapel in Kuala Lumpur.

Signis/WACC

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