Cinema and Its Role in Portraying Christ

Cardinal Poupard Says Films Have Role in Evangelization

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 2, 2003 ( Today the cinema is an imperative for evangelization, says the president of the Pontifical Council for Culture.

Cardinal Paul Poupard made this affirmation when delivering the opening address at the 7th Congress on the Cinema and the Church. The annual congress is organized jointly with the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

Among the participants in the congress was Polish film director Krzysztof Zanussi, whose film «The Supplement» will open Thursday in Italy.

The theme of the congress, «Christ in the Cinema: A Cinematographic Canon,» underlined that «the cinema is an indispensable vehicle to construct culture and, in the Church, to evangelize,» Cardinal Poupard said in his address.

«I hope the cinema will be able to construct an authentic culture of life and of the dignity of the person,» as well as «a civilization of mutual respect and coexistence between cultures,» he said.

«I am fully confident that those who operate in the world of cinema will be able to respond to this request for a supplement of hope,» the cardinal added.

For his part, Father Javier García González, professor at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum, said that the «cinema and evangelization should go together.»

Father García, an expert in Christology, added there are risks in presenting Jesus Christ in the cinema. It «might not correspond to the canonical Christ, to the Christ of the faith of the People of God and of the Church,» he warned. Moreover, «non-essential human factors might prevail, such as ideology, materialism, consumerism or eroticism.»

However, he added that «cinematographic language can represent the Son of God in images,» and can do so «without falling into a spiritualist and falsely angelical flight, but affirming the truth of the Incarnation.»

Ermelinda Campani of Stanford University said: «To produce film on Jesus Christ is to produce films that stem from the collective imagination, and this has its strength and its weakness, as they touch the spinal cord of Western culture.»

Campani suggested that there is complementarity, not opposition, between «cinema and the sacred» and denied that the cinema is the realm of «the profane.»

«To go to the movies is, in a certain sense, to participate in a collective rite,» the professor said.

Monsignor Enric Planas, director of the Vatican Film Library, expressed his willingness to receive all films on Jesus Christ. «I want all films on Jesus Christ, because they show us the reflection of Jesus Christ, perfect communicator,» he said.

He admitted however that he preferred «films that present the informality of God in the ordinary, his tenderness and immediacy: I am grateful to the authors who are able to show us these features in the figure of Jesus Christ.»

In addition to the two pontifical councils, the congress was supported by the Rivista del Cinematografo of the Entertainment Entity (an Italian public institution) and the General Direction of the Cinema of the Ministry of Cultural Goods and Activities. It also had the collaboration of RAI Cine and Medusa Film.

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