A new film depicting a fictitious Pope who struggles to adjust to his new role and eventually resigns is dividing Catholic opinion in Italy.
“Habemus Papam,” 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 “Habemus Papam.”
Despite its controversial subject matter the Jesuit journal Civiltà Cattolica praised the film, while Vatican Radio said it was pleased to report that it featured “no irony” relating to the Pope and was not a “caricature.”
Such conciliatory talk, though, is being dismissed by the Vatican reporter Izzo. Writing in the Italian bishop’s newspaper Avvenire, he said, “You don't touch the Pope: he is the Christ's vicar, the rock upon which Jesus founded his Church.”
Izzo also condemned those Catholics who have praised the film. “Let’s not trust the Catholic critics, even if they are priests, who absolve (Moretti) with a very curious justification: 'Moretti could have been even worse'.”
“We do not need ‘Habemus Papam,’” he said, urging a boycott.
Italian journalist and Vatican-watcher Sandro Magister told AFP that there’s unlikely to be any official condemnation of the film. “It would only help the producer,” he said. “He would be very happy with a polemic that is completely without foundation.”
Meanwhile, Moretti told an interviewer for Italian RAI3 TV, “There is freedom of expression in my work. I am not commenting.” The director added, “People can boycott it after seeing it.”
“Habemus Papam” is now in the running for the prestigious Palme D'Or Prize at the Cannes Film Festival next month.