Vatican passes on makeover offer

Pope Benedict XVI arrives for his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican Nov. 28. (CNS/Paul Haring)The Vatican has no intention of hiring famed Italian movie and opera director Franco Zeffirelli to be the pope’s image-maker or to be an Inquisitor for religious films.

The Italian maestro told the Italian daily La Stampa over the weekend that he was putting himself at the Vatican’s disposal to revamp Pope Benedict’s “cold” delivery and “opulent,” “flashy” vestments.

Zeffirelli, whose 1977 miniseries “Jesus of Nazareth” is regarded as one of the most faithful adaptations of the Christ story, said he would also protect how religious figures and the church were portrayed on the screen. He said he was “at the proposal stage” with officials in plans to create a review board at the Vatican “for defending the faith in cinema, (and) sacred imagery.”

“I must have full authority — which the Holy Father would not deny me — to strike down the continual blasphemies committed with the intention of making the Christian message popular,” he told the paper.

Even though the 84-year-old director will be busy putting on “Tosca” at Rome’s Teatro dell’Opera in January, he said he would work “full time” being the Vatican’s media watchdog.

The Vatican is not engaged in talks with the director nor will it be taking up his generous offers. The story and the director’s proposals were summarily dismissed either with hearty laughter or “Oh please, you can’t be serious!” from key people I spoke with.

Folks at the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Social Communications hadn’t heard about the director’s proposals, one official said.

As for remaking Pope Benedict’s image, he already has a new master of cermeonies, Guido Marini, and, besides, there are many who like the pope just the way he is.

Some media quickly interpreted Zeffirelli’s dreams as reality, while others were more skeptical. For example, the Italian bishops didn’t even list the Dec. 15 La Stampa story as part of their daily news roundup that day. After all, just three weeks ago Zeffirelli told the Italian paper Corriere della Sera he is related to Leonardo da Vinci.

“My great-great-grandfather impregnated the peasant girl who gave birth to Leonardo,” the paper quoted him as saying. Leonardo was born over 500 years ago.

PHOTO: Pope Benedict XVI arrives for his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican Nov. 28. (CNS/Paul Haring)

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