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Popular priest quits Catholic radio programme

South Africa's most popular Catholic radio presenter, and founder of the country's Catholic radio station Radio Veritas, has decided to quit his morning drive show programme: Matins. Fr Emil Blaser has been working in the Catholic and secular media for many years.  He made this difficult decision due to his struggle with illness.

Popular and much loved Dominican radio presenter, Fr Emil Blaser, has hung up his boots and, from Friday 11 May 2018, will no longer be doing the morning show on Radio Veritas – the Catholic radio station which he founded. 

The popular morning drive programme showcased a number of different things including news, interviews, music, competitions and devotions. Blaser's charisma and great experience as a broadcaster made him very popular with a diverse audience. Many loyal listeners loved the show and, phoning into the station during his last show, shared untold stories of how he touched their lives from behind the mic. 

Although he remains director of the station and will go into the office every day, the decision to stop doing Matins was as a result of his illness: Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP). 

Blaser has worked in media for many years. Before founding Radio Veritas he passionately did programmes on SABC TV and radio. It was always his dream that the Catholic Church in South Africa should have its own community station. He realised this dream when he launched Radio Veritas.

The first Matins programme was aired in 2001 from the station's Troyville studios when they did a one-month special events licence broadcast on 92.7 FM. A number of these special event licences were granted to the station until the frequency was later given to Talk702 when they migrated from medium wave to FM. 

From humble beginnings, broadcasting at selected times on other stations, on shortwave and struggling to get a broadcasting licence, Radio Veritas was finally licensed in 2012. This was, largely, due to the determination and perseverance of Blaser. He would not give up. Matins then became, and remains, the flagship programme of the station.

Running a radio station is a time consuming and costly venture. With the help of the staff and board, Blaser has tirelessly sought support to ensure that the station remains on the airwaves. Very often there is little appreciation of those who work in Catholic media because it is not seen as a priority by many in the Church.  Undeterred by this, Blaser would not give up and ran many campaigns and competitions – including pilgrimages to the Holy Land under the banner of the station – to raise funds to keep the mics on. 

Blaser's last show was co-presented by the new host Khanya Litabe. “It was an emotional mix of phone-ins, reminiscing, recorded farewell messages, thanksgiving and prayers,” said the station’s deputy director Mrs Olinda Orlando. 

Few clergy in the South African Catholic Church, which celebrates its bicentenary this year, have engaged in Catholic and secular media as passionately as Blaser. For many he is the face and presence of the Catholic Church in the country. The Catholic Church owes him much gratitude for the foundations he has laid on which many up-and-coming younger communicators can build. 

He also served as vicar for communications for a number of years in the Archdiocese of Johannesburg making an invaluable contribution to the monthly Archdiocesan News. 

Although retiring from Matins, Blaser will continue to do his popular evening devotional programme ‘As the Sun sets’. 

You will find Radio Veritas on 576MW or on DSTV's audio bouquet 870. The station also live streams on radioveritas.co.za.

Images: Radio Veritas

* The opinions expressed here by Spotlight.Africa contributors and editors are their own and not official statements of the Society of Jesus in South Africa or of the Catholic Church unless explicitly stated.

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Russell Pollitt SJ
Director of the Jesuit Institute South Africa and Editor-in-Chief of spotlight.africa. He studied the social sciences, theology and communications. He worked as pastor of the Jesuit’s downtown parish in Johannesburg, South Africa, for 7 years before moving to the Jesuit Institute. He is interested in the relationship between faith and society and the contribution that faith can make to public policy. He regularly comments on politics in South Africa and issues in the Catholic Church. He conducts workshops in South Africa on social media and the human person.

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