Divine Word Father Franz-Josef Eilers, who died on Jan. 13, addresses a conference in 2019. (Photo: YouTube)
Divine Word Father Franz-Josef Eilers, a pioneering German missionary who worked to develop media and communication systems in the Asian Church, died in the Philippines on Jan. 13. He was 89.
“We have lost a great friend, motivator, teacher and leader who spent most of his years as a priest in developing a strong church media,” said Divine Word Bishop Chacko Thottumarical of Indore in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.
Bishop Thottumarickal, a former chairman of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC) Office of Social Communication, remembered Father Eilers as “a learned man and a great communicator."
He said Father Eilers was “a great asset to the Church,” considering his work to “set up a strong media network based on Catholic values across the globe with a special focus and care on Asian countries.”
Divine Word Father Clarence Srambical, who was associated with Father Eilers since 1964, said the missionary was instrumental in starting many communication projects in Asian countries as well as in Europe, tapping finance from German funding agencies.
“Father Eilers had the distinction of doing the first doctorate in intercultural communications and had many other feathers in his cap that needed many pages to explain,” Father Srambical told UCA News on Jan. 14.
Father Eilers was also the founder-director of the Catholic Media Council (Cameco) in Aachen, Germany, a member of the Pontifical Council for Social Communication and led Radio Veritas Asia for years.
He also authored several books and scholarly articles and served as director of the Asian Research Center for Religion and Social Communication.
“Father Eilers contributed richly to the communication ministry of the Church globally and in Asia in particular,” said a statement by the FABC.
“A great communication luminary, author and teacher, Father Eilers served as the executive secretary of the FABC Office of Social Communication from 1995 to 2010,” said the statement.
In 2015, he was awarded the Titus Brandsma Leadership in Social Communication Award in recognition of his involvement in social communication.
Father Eilers was also the recipient of the Asian Media, Information and Communication Centre (AMIC) award in June 2018 at Manipal Academy of Higher Education in Karnataka, India, for his outstanding contributions in the field of church and social communications.
“We certainly condole the death of a pioneer in communications at Asian level. His tremendous contributions will always be remembered with much gratitude,” said Father Babu Joseph, former spokesperson of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India.
Father Eilers was also instrumental in the evolving communication network of the Society of Divine Word in India, said Father Joseph, also a Divine Word priest.