Nearly three quarters of a century ago, the first Catholic Mass was televised in 1948: A Midnight Christmas Mass at the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris.
The Church was anxious to be present from the very beginning of the development of television technology. When the first ever French national television public broadcasting organization was founded, RTF, the Church nominated an ecclesiastical advisor: Dominican Father Raymond Pichard.
In 1948, Father Pichard anticipated the future role of television and had a revolutionary idea: they would transmit that years Midnight Christmas Mass over the air, for the first time ever, to some 50,000 TV sets in France.
“My dear brothers, on the occasion of this first televised Mass … Silence, the doors are about to open for the first audience granted by the Pope to television viewers … We have the highest expectations for television, for bringing the ever-more brilliant revelation of truth to intellectually honest minds.”
On the December 24th in 1948, Archbishop of Paris Cardinal Emmanuel Suhard, celebrated the first ever televised Mass. He gave a homily blessing the new form of broadcasting, that it be a help to all Catholics confined to their home, the sick, and the old, and that it reach all have “moral or religious concerns” but for whatever reason stay away from the Church.
On the 50 year anniversary of that first ever televised Christmas Mass, Pope Saint John Paul II said:
“On Christmas Eve in 1948, Fr Raymond Pichard, O.P., in agreement with the Société française de Télévision, had the good idea of the first-ever world-wide broadcast of the Midnight Mass celebrated in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris. On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of this event, which marked an important turning point in the proclamation of the Gospel, I willingly join in prayer all who contribute to the broadcast Le Jour du Seigneur, the pastors and faithful who are once again gathered in Notre-Dame de Paris on this occasion and all those who are following Christmas Mass on radio and television. On the occasion of this 50th anniversary of the televised broadcast of Mass, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to all who contribute to this broadcast and its transmission, as well as to the celebrants, preachers, Christian communities and faithful who join in the liturgy by means of radio and television.”