France: The First “Televised” Mass Took Place 75 Years Ago

Source: FSSPX News

Fr. Raymond Pichard, OP

The first Mass televised on French TV was broadcast 75 years ago live from Notre-Dame de Paris, on December 24, 1948. This broadcast of the Christmas Mass was due to a Dominican passionate about communication: Fr. Raymond Pichard (1913-1992). It was then received by at most 100 television sets, because there were only around 300 televisions in France.

In fact, then in charge of the radio offices, Fr. Pichard, with the agreement of the provincial of the Order of Preachers, managed to convince those responsible for French television and the Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Emmanuel Suhard. The Midnight Mass of December 24, 1948, thus became the first “televised” Mass, and a first globally. The Dominican then strove to convince Pope Pius XII of the relevance of this new means of communication.

Pius XII and Television

And for Easter Sunday, on April 17, 1949, Pius XII addressed the French people from the Vatican in a short speech broadcast for the first time by French television. “The world has been told that religion is in its decline, and by the help of this new marvel [television], the world will see the magnificent triumph of the Eucharist and of Mary.

“It has been told that the papacy is dead or dying, and it will see the crowds overflowing from every side of the immense St. Peter’s Square in order to receive the blessing of the Pope and to hear his words. It has been told that the Church no longer counts, and it will see it, persecuted or glorious, but alive everywhere!

“It has been told that it will find help, kindness, devotion, only through a philanthropy that neither faith nor divine charity inspires nor animates, and it will see the disciples of Christ dedicate their lives until death to the service of the sick, the elderly, the imprisoned, the lepers, in all climates, everywhere the body suffers, or the heart groans, or the soul is in distress.

“Then the undeceived world will lift up its eyes, will contemplate in raptures the light which shines upon it from the maternal brow of the Church, and it will give glory to God.” In his Encyclical Miranda prorsus (September 8, 1957) on cinema, radio, and television, Pius XII presents the features of broadcasting using audiovisual technologies.

“Cinema, radio, and television are therefore not simply means of recreation and relaxation (even if a good portion of listeners and spectators consider them above all in this aspect), but they transmit values--especially cultural and moral--which can greatly contribute to the good of modern society.

“More than the books, audiovisual technologies offer the possibility of collaboration and exchange, and the Church, which by mandate takes an interest in all of humanity, wants them to serve the dissemination of good.”

And the Holy Father specifies its content: “We must first consider as sacred the truth revealed by God. Would it not be the even the highest vocation of broadcasting technologies to make known to all the teaching of God and of His Son Jesus Christ--this Christian Faith which, alone, can give millions of men the strength to accept with serenity and courage the unspeakable trials and anxieties of the present hour?

“The effort to contribute to the moral perfection of man must be combined with the duty to serve the truth. Audiovisual technologies can provide such a contribution in three important sectors: information, teaching, and entertainment.”

Fr. Pichard

Born in Pays d’Auge (Normandy, France) in 1913, Raymond Pichard was ordained priest in 1939, after going through seminary with the Carmelites. He then entered the Order of Preachers. After the first “televised” Mass in history and in exchange for the installation of a transmitter in the Vatican, Fr. Pichard obtained from Jean d’Arcy, then a member of the ministerial cabinets (1944-1950) then director of RTF programs (1952-1959), the creation of a weekly 90-minute program.

Starting on October 9, 1949, every Sunday at 5:30 pm, a Catholic program was broadcast, consisting of the Mass, news, and an introduction to the liturgy, Church history, and the life of the missions. Thus, in 1954, Le Jour du Seigneur [The Lord’s Day] was born. Then he founded Les Productions du Parvis [Square Productions] in order to produce documentaries which led him from Rome to Rwanda, calling on great filmmakers of the time such as Georges Rouquier and Philippe Agostini.