Prayers for the papal trip from across the ocean

ROME — Pope Benedict XVI joined members of the Rome-based Sant’Egidio Community for an afternoon prayer service today. Although the visit marked the 40th anniversary of the community — committed to serving the poor, to dialogue and to peacemaking — it also focused on the example of Christians who gave their lives for the Gospel in the 20th century. The service was held in Rome’s Basilica of St. Bartholomew, where the Sant’Egidio Community has set up little chapels dedicated to the “new martyrs.”

In the prayers of the faithful, Marco Impagliazzo, president of the community, turned the focus away from the martyrs and away from Sant’Egidio.

 “Lord,” he prayed, “accompany with your love the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, at the beginning of a new year of Petrine service (his anniversary of his election is April 19) and bless his apostolic trip to the United States and United Nations. Sustain him with your Holy Spirit while, with frankness and generosity, he proclaims the joy of faith to the world.” 

People in the United States will get a bit of that proclamation even before Pope Benedict lands in Washington next Tuesday afternoon; the Vatican announced today that he had prepared a video message for the people of the country.

Unlike video messages released by the Vatican for Pope Benedict’s trips to Brazil and to Austria, this one is custom-made. The others were clips pulled from remarks the pope made at a general audience in the days before the trips.

However, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi — head of the Vatican press office, Vatican Radio and the Vatican television center — said it’s not a totally new invention. On several occasions Pope John Paul II recorded video messages for broadcast before his arrival in a country.

Charlton Heston’s other ‘holy’ roles

Charlton Heston, portraying Moses, holds up the Ten Commandments in Cecil B. DeMille's 1956 epic. (CNS file photo)Just about everyone familiar with cinema knows that Charlton Heston, who died April 5 at age 84, played Moses in the 1956 Hollywood classic “The Ten Commandments.”

But it would take a real film buff to remember the other “holy” roles Heston played, including St. Thomas More in a 1988 TV remake of “A Man for All Seasons,” St. John the Baptist in 1965’s “The Greatest Story Ever told,” Sistine Ceiling painter Michelangelo in “The Agony and the Ecstasy” (also made in 1965), Cardinal Richelieu in the 1973 film version of “The Three Musketeers,” and Judah Ben-Hur in 1959’s “Ben-Hur,” for which he won the Oscar for best actor.

But he topped all of those characters by playing God in an uncredited appearance in the 1990 movie “Almost an Angel.”

In an interview with Catholic News Service to promote the movie, Heston said he told Paramount Pictures, which produced the film, that he didn’t want any billing: “It really is ridiculous to say ‘God — Charlton Heston.'”

In negotiating with studio execs, Heston added, he told them, “God doesn’t need billing.” Heston said the studio replied, “God doesn’t need to be paid either.” Ultimately, Heston and Paramount worked out a deal in which the studio didn’t have to pay the actor an almighty sum.