Pope Francis Makes His Big-Screen Debut in Gospels-Inspired Movie (UPDATED)

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2/3/2016 UPDATE: Click here to read a message from the Vatican clarifying the details of this announcement — in short, “The Pope is not an actor.”

Today, Feb. 1, a press release revealed that the Bishop of Rome would be playing himself in a new film, marking the first time that a pontiff has played a part in a big-screen project.

From the press release:

His Holiness Pope Francis portrays himself in the inspirational story based on the Gospels, told in several tales with Jesus’s message, so children can learn and incorporate Jesus’s parables.

The idea for the feature film emanated from Pope Francis asking the filmmakers to do a movie for children that communicates Jesus’s message.

Pope Francis is willing to participate in the movie to support charity as all profits from “Beyond the Sun” will be donated to two selected charities – El Almendro and Los Hogares de Cristo (located in Argentina) which support Pope Francis’ social and spiritual message within the film. These organizations help aid at-risk children and young adults in need.

“Beyond the Sun” is a family adventure story where children from different cultures emulate the apostles while searching for Jesus in the world around them. The film will be uplifting and is intended to spiritually engage and encourage audiences of all ages to transmit Jesus words, to understand them and integrate them to live a better life, make good choices and help others.

Graciela Rodriguez wrote the film’s screenplay based on her own concept.

Financing and producing the film are Andrea Iervolino and Lady Monika Bacardi, co-founders of AMBI Pictures, which has offices in Rome and Los Angeles, with Rodriguez and Gabriel Leybu as co-producers.

Said Iervolino — who shot his first film at 15 in a church in his hometown of Cassino, Italy — in a statement:Pope-Francis-Andrea-Iervolino

Our excitement and gratitude toward His Holiness, Pope Francis participating in this film is beyond words. This is not just a movie for us, it’s a message, and who better to have on your side to deliver an important societal and spiritual message than the Pope. … This movie will provide funds to support extremely worthwhile causes that we take very seriously. This message and cause are very dear to the entire AMBI family and we are honored and inspired by the level of collaboration from the Vatican.

Lady Bacardi is the widow of Luis Adalbert Facundo Gomez de Campo Bacardi, a descendant of the Bacardi rum fortune, founded in Cuba in the late 19th century. Bacardi himself was born in Cuba in 1933 but left at the age of 29, and lived largely in Europe, primarily Monaco, until his death in 2005. Already at least twice-divorced, he married the Italian-born Monkia in 2000, and they have one daughter, Maria Luisa.

In 1988, Bacardi paid the British Earl of Kimberly the right to be called the Lord of the Manor of Bayfield Hall cum Coston. Hence, his widow has the right to be called Lady of Bayfield Hall, but she goes by Lady Bacardi.

In a statement, she said:

It is a great honor for Andrea and I to have the opportunity to work with His Holiness, Pope Francis, to spread the awareness of his message, through this film. We will make a movie everyone involved with can be proud of. Not only will families from around globe enjoy this film and be entertained, but they will be moved. There are creative ways to help those in need all over the world and we hope this film does just that. We appreciate Pope Francis’s permission to film him and use his image in our movie.

Principal photography is set to begin on “Beyond the Sun” in early 2016 in Italy. Monsignor Eduardo Garcia will act as the pope’s advisor. It’s not clear if he’s the same Eduardo Garcia who is the Bishop of San Justo, Argentina, the pope’s home country.

Image: Wikimedia Commons, courtesy AMBI Pictures

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