Monsignor Planas, Director of Vatican Film Library

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 15, 2000 ( Directors and actors of the cinema and theater, as well as the circus and television, began to arrive in Rome this morning to celebrate the Jubilee of the World of Entertainment.

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The prologue to this last special Jubilee of the Holy Year took place in the Basilica of St. Mary Major, where Archbishop John Foley, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, said conversion is the best preparation for Christmas. In the afternoon, artists joined in a penitential liturgy in the Basilica of the Holy Cross of Jerusalem.

On Saturday, Rome will become a veritable stage, with street artists parading from the People´s Square to St. Ignatius Church. Later, in the afternoon, these special pilgrims will meet in the Titanus Studios to take part in a meeting with famous and not-so-famous artists who will give testimonies of their faith in their own special language — that is, song, dance, theater and circus.

On Saturday and Sunday, Rome´s squares will be overrun by artists, jugglers, musical bands and comedians, all offering popular performances.

Monsignor Enrique Planas, director of the Vatican Film Library and one of the organizers of this special Jubilee, told ZENIT in an interview: «It is the first time that, the world of entertainment, not only professionals but also amateurs, including street and itinerant performers, offer their testimony of faith, without any privileges, as all are playing leading roles.»

–Q: In general, when one speaks of shows, one thinks immediately of Hollywood and stars with million-dollar fees. Is this the picture people have of this Jubilee?

–Monsignor Planas: Movie stars are movie stars, of course. However, in preparing this Jubilee event we have tried to place performances in second place, as the participants are all persons in addition to being artists. During the Jubilee, we have given the same amount of time to different forms of art.

–Q: What will be the most important moment of this Jubilee?

–Monsignor Planas: The key moment is the meeting with John Paul II and the celebration of Mass in St. Peter´s on Sunday. It will also be the moment of greatest attendance. Although this Jubilee lasts three days, it culminates at this moment; following the Mass the artists will meet the Holy Father personally.

Don´t ask me what will happen at the end in Vatican Square, as 70 musical bands have announced their arrival and, obviously, they will make themselves heard. Like them, other artists will come with their surprises. What is clear is that all will be heard.

–Q: You are in charge of advising John Paul II about the films he views in private. The Pope has been a stage actor, he has written scripts that have been put on the big screen. What concern does Pope Wojtyla wish to express to the world of entertainment?

–Monsignor Planas: «Over these years, as director of the Vatican Film Library, I have seen a real effervescence in the Church´s relations with the film world. This can be seen in the Pope´s magisterium, in our presence at film festivals, etc. All this has taken place because the Pope has fostered it with a warm disposition.

I think we can say that the world of entertainment will find they are a priority and special interest of the Pope. When this world has wanted to meet with him, the Pontiff has taken the initiative immediately. The dialogue that has been established between the world of film and entertainment has resulted in pontifical documentation, which was recently published in a book by the Vatican Press.

–Q: What has the Pope said about the world of entertainment over these years?

–Monsignor Planas: First of all, John Paul II makes it clear that it is worthwhile to look at the ferment in this world. Not only is it worthwhile to pay priority and pastoral attention to it, but, in addition, the dialogue has a future and must continue. These are two clear undertakings from the Pope´s dialogue with the film and entertainment world.

–Q: There was a very significant moment in this connection, when Roberto Benigni watched «Life Is Beautiful» with the Pope. Perhaps it was a symbolic moment, because in previous years, the author was more of a critic of John Paul II. Later, when he matured artistically, Benigni began a lovely relation with the Pontiff.

–Monsignor Planas: First of all, I would like to state a premise. Benigni was enormously delicate and respectful in his contact with the Holy Father. He has never made public use of it, despite the fact it could have been an occasion for publicity. I think he must be paid back in kind. I had the good fortune of being present when his film was projected for the Pope. However, I think that both the Holy Father as well as Benigni would be grateful for my discretion.

As regards Benigni, I would say: «By their fruits you shall know them.» His cinematographic production is being increasingly decanted into a cinema of values. I think his cinematographic production will not be sidetracked in the future.

The Pope´s relation with Benigni has had great repercussions, because of the latter´s overwhelming personality and because he was awarded an Oscar. However, I could refer to very many other cases of meetings of artists and movie fans with the Holy Father, but I will not do so, because I am bound by the same discretion I mentioned earlier. Dialogues have begun with them, through platforms, such as the Church´s presence at festivals.

However, whoever comes to my office will often see people of the film world, who for one reason or another are beginning to come in and out of the Vatican´s doors with a certain familiarity. This is a sign of the dialogue that is currently under way, and this gives room for much hope.

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