German missionary who was a ‘great communication luminary’ dies aged 88

Father Franz-Josef Eilers SVD, a German missionary and respected leader in the field of communications, died in the Philippines on Jan. 13. He was 88 years of age.

Father Eilers passed away in Manila at 2.40 pm. The exact cause of his death is not yet publicly known but he’d battled a heart condition for several years.

“Father Eilers has contributed richly to the communication ministry of the Church globally and in Asia in particular,” said a statement by the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) issued not long after his death.

Please join us today, Jan. 15, online at the Holy Mass for the eternal repose of the soul of the late Fr. Franz-Josef Eilers, svd. Our friends outside Manila will be able to join the mass via ZOOM.

Here are the log-in credentials should you wish to attend:

Topic: Mass for the soul of Fr. Franz-Josef Eilers, svd
Time: Jan 15, 2021 5:00 PM Hong Kong SAR

Join Zoom Meeting…
Meeting ID: 997 6495 9915
Passcode: FJE2021

“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.

Chainarong Monthienvichienchai, the chancellor of St. John’s University Bangkok, had known Father Eilers for several decades. Together they cofounded the Asian Research Center for Religion and Social Communication (ARC) at the university; Father Eilers was its director for 20 plus years.

Father Eilers always “emphasized that we as the Church should not pay too much attention to software and hardware, but instead we should focus on ‘humanware’,” Monthienvichienchai told

“I will always remember him as an affable, energetic and very punctual man with a great sense of humor and strong love for social communication,” Monthienvichienchai said.

“Anyone who came to know him was often touched by his heart of gold. His kindness, generosity, and cheerful nature won him a large network of adoring friends,” he said.

Father Eilers was also the former director of Catholic Media Council (CAMECO) in Aachen, Germany.

Michael Unland, the current CAMECO executive director, told that the council will miss Father Eilers’ kindness as well as his curiosity and his effort to think about communication holistically and from the human-centered perspective.

“His name is closely linked with the history of CAMECO and he was one of the main promoters of its foundation in 1969 and its second executive director,” Unland said.

“As one of the first, he was very concerned to look at media and communication not from its technical side but from its social, intercultural and relationship-building side,” he said. “In this regards and many decades before the emergence of social media this was a very prophetic perspective.”

Additionally, Father Eilers was a member of the Pontifical Council for Social Communication and, for a time, led Radio Veritas Asia. He authored several books and scholarly articles.

Monthienvichienchai said that Father Eilers’ last book, ‘Communicating in Ministry and Mission’ published in 2018, explained the basic needs and directions of the communications dimension in pastoral ministry and evangelization.

Father Anthony Le Duc, SVD, the current ARC deputy director, said that Father Eilers was widely respected for his scholarship in social and pastoral communications.

Father Franz-Josef Eilers’ last book, ‘Communicating in Ministry and Mission’. (Photo supplied)

“In 1968, he founded in Germany the journal Communicatio Socialis, which was the very first academic publication for Christian communication. The journal still exists after more than 50 years of publication,” Father Le Duc told   

Father Le Duc pointed out that Father Eilers was also a highly esteemed teacher who taught at numerous institutions including the Pontifical Gregorian and Salesian Universities in Rome, the Divine Word School of Theology in Tagaytay and the Pontifical University of Santo Tomas in Manila where finished teaching in 2018.

The late priest was also the recipient of recognitions such as the Titus Brandsma Leadership in Social Communication Award from the Carmelites (Philippines) and the Asian Media Information and Communication Award for Transformative Leadership.

This article was updated on Jan. 14.

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