75 years of the catholic agency Kathpress

The Austrian Catholic agency Kathpress celebrated its 75th anniversary with a delay due to the coronavirus pandemic. On this occasion, the Holy Mass Cardinal Christoph Schönborn presided over the Franciscan Church in Vienna on May 4. As head of media in the Austrian episcopate, the Archbishop of Vienna is also the editor of Kathpress.

Christianity is deeply shaped by the fundamental belief that truth is available to all and should be shared. Such an attitude must also shape good journalism, Cardinal Schönborn said. He stressed that journalists should serve the truth. One should be grateful that this is possible in Austria under conditions of freedom. The Archbishop of Vienna also recalled that the work of journalists should not be sensational, but should aim for objectivity, be the subject of discussion and transmit “what is important”.

At the end of the liturgy, Card. Schönborn thanked everyone who has shaped and supported Kathpress over the past 75 years. The Agency has been exceptionally successful as an organ of the Catholic Church and is therefore independent. “She is not bound by instructions, she is not biased in her information, follows the pure principle of journalistic responsibility for truth,” the Archbishop of Vienna said and stressed that Kathpress was considered ” a reliable news organization that can be trusted”.

The President of the Austrian Bishops’ Conference conveyed his greetings to the Jubilee. Bishop Franz Lackner noted that, especially in recent decades, “how important is the work of the media that accompanies the work of the Church in this world.” They must inform, they must explain and often also correct. It is certainly not an easy task, but a rewarding one, the Archbishop of Salzburg said.

Editor and director Paul Wuthe pointed out that Kathpress holds a special place in the media market. “We are a Catholic news agency: we work in journalism and with a Catholic profile. The fact that such a double challenge can be achieved is the real reason for this evening and this thanksgiving”, underlined Wuthe. He underlined that the journalistic vision of Kathpress goes far beyond Austria and neighboring countries and concerns the universal Church, as well as ecclesiastical subjects, ecumenism, the world of religion “and subjects in which Christian positions and commitment are socially relevant”.

Alexander Filipovic, a social and media ethicist from Vienna, also spoke. He stressed the importance of journalism independent of the state and, ultimately, of specific economic interests. The job of journalism is, among other things, to verify the truth and provide information, the ethicist said. He criticized and considered detrimental to democracy the weakening of public broadcasting, a disproportionate strengthening of tabloid journalism, an extensive system of “own media”, and the close ties between government, politicians and the media.

Referring to the Kathpress agency, Filipovic highlighted his efforts to provide diligent journalism aimed at accuracy and precision. “May Kathpress continue to support social communication with its excellent work and be a model for other journalistic media,” wished the media ethicist.

The agency’s first website was published on November 18, 1946 under the “trial” title “Katholische Pressezentrale” (Catholic Press Center). The agency adopted its current name on February 9, 1947. In 1951, the Austrian Bishops’ Conference recommended that the founder of the press agency, hitherto local, Monsignor Jakob Fried of the Archdiocese of Vienna, grant it a national. At the same time, the episcopate became the publisher of Kathpress, which since then – in addition to its primary task as a news agency – has also been the press office of the conference.

In 1962, shortly before the opening of the Second Vatican Council, Kathpress, together with Catholic agencies from Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland, established a common correspondence office in Rome – Centrum Informationis Catholicum ( CIC). At the same time, it became the basis for the continued cooperation of German-speaking Catholic agencies: KNA from Germany, KIPA from Switzerland and Kathpress. In addition to the headquarters in Vienna and the CIC in Rome, the agency also has its regular correspondents, incl. in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 1997, the Austrian episcopate defined a new legal framework for Kathpress, creating the Institute “Catholic News Agency” and a new statute for the editorial staff.

Kathpress is today the leading medium in the Austrian religious media market. For more than 75 years, it has provided daily information on the life of the Church in the country and in the world to ecclesiastical, state and social institutions as well as to private recipients. It informs not only about the Catholic Church, but also about other Churches and Christian communities, religions and about social and political issues. The regular recipients of the agency’s websites are almost all the media with the APA press agency and ORF television, a wide circle of ecclesiastical audiences (dioceses, parishes, religious orders, ecclesiastical media, etc.), but also ministries, political parties, universities, publicists and experts interested in the Church and religion. The editorial staff guarantees a high level of professional journalism. It offers its recipients subscription products, such as the systematic transmission of topical information, daily newsletters, “Kathpress compact” – a collection of the most interesting news, published once a week, “Info-Dienst ” – a newsletter with analysis and commentary, dedicated to the life of the “Ordensdienst” and the daily schedule. Once a year it also publishes “KathIndex” – the current list of addresses of the most important ecclesiastical institutions. Kathpress is also present on social networks, on the Internet at www.kathpress.at, and has a Twitter profile @kathpress_wien and on Facebook, where it also publishes audio and photo news.

Speaking of this presence, Paul Wuthe told KAI that it contributes to a greater interest in the life of churches, other religions and their activities in the social field. Despite the passage of time, Kathpress is still a sought-after “product” in the sphere not only of the media and not only of the church, the agency’s editor-in-chief stressed.

The editor and director of Kathpress has been Paul Wuthe since 2010, and the publisher – Card. Christoph Schönborn, media officer in the Austrian bishops. In the years 1980-2010, the editor-in-chief was prof. Erich Leitenberger, who was also the press spokesman for three later cardinals – the Archbishops of Vienna. In the years 1955-80, the work of Kathpress was led by Richard Barta, who died in 1986.

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