An Indian Salesian priest is among 13 new consultors Pope Francis appointed on April 12 to the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communication. Fr. Peter Gonsalves, S.D.B., dean of the Faculty of Social Communication Sciences of Rome’s Pontifical Salesian University, is among 6 priests and 7 lay people, including a woman, who will advise the recently-created communications body.
The Pope established the new Secretariat for Communication in June, 2015, bringing 9 Vatican media bodies under the Secretariat’s direction, headed by Msgr. Dario Viganò, with the purpose of overhauling and streamlining them as a cohesive unit. The consultors are a separate group from the secretariat members, made up of 16 cardinals, bishops and laypeople the Pope appointed last year..
A member of the Salesian province of Mumbai, Fr. Gonsalves is the first non-European Dean of Faculty of Social Communication Sciences which was established in 1988. He was born in Mumbai on January 3th, 1958. He has been a Salesian since December 1977. He was ordained priest on December 19th, 1987. He holds the titles of Master of Philosophy and Bachelor of Arts from the Indian University of Pune and a Bachelor of Theology from Kristu Jyoti College in Bangalore. He received his PhD in Social Communication at the Salesian Pontifical University in 2007. In the previous years, he had also obtained a diploma in Counselling (Xavier's Institute, Mumbai 1988) and a diploma in Media Education (British Film Institute - Open University, London 2003).
He started teaching in 1981 in India, where he founded the Don Bosco Creativity Workshops in Mumbai and where he was the National Coordinator for Social Communications from 1993 to 1999. From 2005 to 2009, he also served as president of INTERSIG, the international wing of SIGNIS, a world association of communicators for a culture of peace.
He was in Italy from 2002 to 2006 as a coordinator of a 5-language web portal of the Salesians of Don Bosco at the Generalate in Rome. He began teaching at the UPS in 2008, was co-opted as a lecturer that same year and promoted to associate professor on 24 May 2013.
Fr. Gonsalves is author of three outstanding academic publications on the father of the Indian nation, Mahatma Gandhi. His first, “Clothing for Liberation: A Communication Analysis of Gandhi’s Swadeshi Revolution”, is the first analysis of Gandhi’s dressing style in terms of communication theory and an exploration of the subliminal messages that were subtly communicated to a large audience. His second book, “Khadi: Gandhi’s Mega Symbol of Subversion,” investigates the power of a symbol to qualitatively transform society, studying Gandhi’s use of clothing as a metaphor for unity, empowerment and liberation from imperial subjugation. Fr Gonsalves’ third work, “Gandhi and the Popes”, investigates how India’s freedom movement leader, whether in his lifetime or posthumously, was respected, appreciated and, in one case, imitated by the Popes from Pius XI to Francis. In the process, he “explores and assesses the popular claim that Gandhi was influenced by Christ, and the not so popular conjecture that Pope Francis was influenced by Gandhi.”
Fr. Gonsalves began his career in media as media education trainer in 1984 and a community worker for rural development at the Bosco Gramin Vikas Kendra, Ahmednagar. In 1992 he founded Tej-Prasarini, a multimedia production and training centre to raise awareness of the urgency of life-based education in vernacular marathi language of Maharashtra state. Later in 1994, Tejprasarini was shifted to Matunga, Mumbai where it is a flourishing media and training house of the Salesians of South Asia. The Salesian priest promoted a series of teacher-training manuals called ‘Quality Life Education’, the first of which was his own work: Exercises in Media Education (1994). Using this, he conducted no less than 40 all-India courses on media education for schoolteachers, social workers and youth facilitators from diverse ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds.