.- A new film depicting a fictitious Pope who struggles to adjust to his new role and eventually resigns is dividing Catholic opinion in Italy.
âHabemus Papam,â which opened in cinemas across Italy this weekend, is the creation of Italian director Nanni Moretti. It stars the 85-year-old French actor Michel Piccoli as the reluctant pontiff.
A Vatican reporter for the Italian news agency AGI, Salvatore Izzo, called for a boycott of the box-office hit and Cannes Palme D'Or contender âHabemus Papam.â
Despite its controversial subject matter the Jesuit journal CiviltÃ Cattolica praised the film, while Vatican Radio said it was pleased to report that it featured âno ironyâ relating to the Pope and was not a âcaricature.â
Such conciliatory talk, though, is being dismissed by the Vatican reporter Izzo. Writing in the Italian bishopâs newspaper Avvenire, he said, âYou don't touch the Pope: he is the Christ's vicar, the rock upon which Jesus founded his Church.â
Izzo also condemned those Catholics who have praised the film. âLetâs not trust the Catholic critics, even if they are priests, who absolve (Moretti) with a very curious justification: 'Moretti could have been even worse'.â
âWe do not need âHabemus Papam,ââ he said, urging a boycott.
Italian journalist and Vatican-watcher Sandro Magister told AFP that thereâs unlikely to be any official condemnation of the film. âIt would only help the producer,â he said. âHe would be very happy with a polemic that is completely without foundation.â
Meanwhile, Moretti told an interviewer for Italian RAI3 TV, âThere is freedom of expression in my work. I am not commenting.â The director added, âPeople can boycott it after seeing it.â
âHabemus Papamâ is now in the running for the prestigious Palme D'Or Prize at the Cannes Film Festival next month.