Vatican to boycott — or not?

angels-book-cover1ROME  – That is the question vexing many Hollywood film reporters these days: What will the Vatican do now that the prequel to the controversial “The Da Vinci Code” is set to hit theaters next month?

Headlines here and there have been claiming either the Vatican was calling for a worldwide boycott or was cautioning against a boycott over fears it would just boost publicity for the up-coming “Angels and Demons” movie.

But who needs an actual boycott when just speculating whether the Vatican or church officials would call on Catholics to stay away seems to be enough?

The problem with the stories that claim the Vatican is against the film or has disapproved of it is the source they cite is Avvenire. Contrary to some reports, it’s not “the Vatican’s official newspaper,” but is a daily Catholic newspaper sponsored by the Italian bishops’ conference.

But more importantly the March 20 article they claim their headlines were based on doesn’t exist in the archives and an Italian journalist who works at Avvenire said he can’t recall the paper publishing anything either for or against the movie.

Confusion probably sprang from a March 20 article in the Italian daily La Stampa which quoted a theologian who writes for Avvenire. La Stampa said (presumably based on an interview with him) that the Italian theologian invited Catholics to ignore the “Angels and Demons” movie. He said filmmakers were “exploiting the church in order to boost sales at the box office.”

Another Italian, Archbishop Velasio De Paolis, president of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See, told La Stampa that people should be cautious about “the boomerang effect” of calling for a boycott because it could translate into unintended publicity for the movie.

He said the Vatican is not worried about people of faith falling for the book and movie’s anti-Christian inventions. The Vatican “believes Christians are strong — inoculated by centuries of persecution and testimonials of faith,” he said.

Archbishop Chaput Pew transcript now available

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver was in Washington on March 17 where he was the principal guest at the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion in Public Life. The event was one of an occasional series the center holds in which they examine where religion and the political life come together. This one focused on the political obligations of Catholics and how Catholics’ convictions are played out in the public square.

Archbishop Chaput is the author of  “Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life” (2008), and he has written and spoken widely on Catholics and political activity. The guests included members of the secular and religious press including Catholic News Service. CNS reporter Pat Zapor covered the wide-ranging presentation and discussion.

The Pew Center now has made the transcript of the event avalable on their Web site. While you are on their site, check out the U.S. religious landscape survey that Pew began in 2008. There are also many other excellent resources on the participation of religious Americans in the public square.

Apostolic visitation for Legionaries of Christ

Pope Benedict XVI has ordered an apostolic visitation of the Legionaries of Christ and its institutions, in the wake of disclosures of sexual impropriety by the late founder of the order, Father Marcial Maciel Degollado.

Heads up! Spiking in St. Peter’s Square

A basketball game is played in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican in the presence of Pope Pius XII in 1955. (CNS photo/Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Laity)

A basketball game is played in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican in the presence of Pope Pius XII in 1955. (CNS photo/Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Laity)

VATICAN CITY — It’s not very often that St. Peter’s Square is turned into a hoops court or a soccer field. But on rare occasions the world of sports comes to the See of Peter.

Tomorrow, 300 children will be digging, setting and spiking during the first volleyball rally ever to be played in St. Peter’s Square.  

Kids aged eight to 11 will be playing on 16 makeshift courts in the square between 8:30 and 10 a.m. — before Pope Benedict XVI begins his weekly general audience at 10:30.

The special event is to highlight that Italy will be hosting the 2010 Men’s Volleyball World Championship (Japan will host the women’s world championship games).

Organizers said that at the end of the general audience, two children will present the pope with a special game shirt emblazoned with the phrase “Volare alto” or “Soar high,” an official world championship volleyball,  and the Italian team’s uniform shirt.

Children play soccer in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican before the weekly audience of Pope Benedict XVI in this Sept. 21, 2005. (CNS photo/Alessia Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)

Children play soccer in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican before the weekly audience of Pope Benedict XVI in this Sept. 21, 2005. (CNS photo/Alessia Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)

Perhaps the most unusual game to have been played in St. Peter’s Square was in the 15th century when it hosted a marathon bout of “calcio storico fiorentino,” the Florentine version of nearly rule-less soccer that looks more like rugby and wrestling combined. It’s said Pope Sixtus IV peeked out his studio window every now and then to see how the grueling match, which lasted from mid-morning to dusk, was proceeding.

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