Maryknoll priest Robert Astorino, founder of the Union of Catholic Asian News, died June 25 at a hospital near the mission society’s headquarters in New York State in the United States.
He was 77 years old.
Following his ordination in 1970, Astorino went to Hong Kong in 1971 and after language studies was part of a Maryknoll team who researched the situation of young people, many of whom children of refugees from mainland China, in the Kwun Tong area of Kowloon.
In 1974, he became involved in the social communications apostolate in Hong Kong and throughout Asia. He helped launch the Hong Kong Catholic Social Communications Office and was its assistant director for several years.
He served in various positions in the Asia branches of several international Catholic media organizations, including the East Asia Catholic Press Association. He also taught journalistic writing at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, 1975-1977.
Astorino, who had earned graduate degrees in sociology from Fordham University and in journalism from Columbia University, both in New York City, saw that the Churches of Asia needed a means of communicating their experiences and missions with one another without passing through Western filters.
After conducting a feasibility study on church information needs in Asia, he launched UCA News in 1979 to provide news of and for the Catholic Church in Asia.
Astorino devoted his time to developing professionalism among Catholic journalists in Asia. He traveled throughout the continent to conduct training seminars to develop the quality of news reporting, feature writing and analytic assessments provided by UCAN reporters and commentators.
Many of those he trained not only continued to work in Catholic journalism but also went on to develop careers in secular journalism.
Astorino’s work on behalf of Catholic journalism drew recognition from various sources. He was appointed a member of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Social Communications. In 1998, the Catholic Press Association in the United States recognized Astorino with the Bishop John England Award honoring "publishers who used the Catholic press to defend the rights of religion and individuals in a free society."
Robert F. X. Astorino was born in New York City on May 27, 1943, and was educated in Catholic schools there before entering Maryknoll as a seminarian. (UCAN)