In Francis’ Church Pasolini goes to heaven




From “intellectual heretic” to father of the Church on the big screen, Pier Paolo Pasolini is now a master illustrator of the faith in the cinema. In today’s issue, Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano celebrates the 50th anniversary of Pasolini’s film The Gospel According to Saint Matthew, praised as the best film on Jesus ever made in the history of cinema.

Giovanni Maria Vian, editor-in-chief of the Vatican newspaper and a historian of Christianity, told Italian daily newspaper La Stampa that the praise for Pasolini’s work is “a symbol of Francis’ merciful Church.”

In line with the spirit of the current pontificate, which gives central importance to “the geographical and existential peripheries”, the Vatican newspaper recognises Pasolini’s ability to let the Gospel message flow freely through his work. The “cursed” director allows religious inspiration to flow through the camera and express itself on the screen. The Vatican film library has now stored the film in its computer database. The film has been blessed as “a performance that touches a sacred chord and is inspired by a sincere realism.” In Pasolini’s Passion, which won the special jury prize at the Venice Film Festival in 1964, an anti-Franco trade unionist plays the role of Christ, the director’s own mother plays an elderly Mary and the scene is dominated by the faces of the underprivileged and set in the Sassi di Matera, the ancient cave dwellings in the Italian city of Matera.

The references to fifteenth century painting reflect the director’s tormented and in many ways contradictory ideology. “The feverish humanity which the director brings to the screen, brings new vigour to the Gospel,” L’Osservatore Romano praises Pasolini by saying. “In this context, the Gospel comes across as even more current, concrete and revolutionary.” So whether the film is about an ongoing crisis or one that has been overcome, it is still a masterpiece and probably the best film on Jesus ever made.” It is “certainly the film in which the Gospel message rings out most fluidly, loftily and loudly, carved into the bare stone.” It is a perfect illustration of Francis’ “poor Church for the poor”.

Vatican Insider

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