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The film, which will open in Italy late in May, was originally screened for the Holy Father last September, at his summer residence in Castel Gandalfo. It uses the original dialogue which he wrote for a theatrical play.
With an international cast, the film portrays the life of Chmielowski (1845-1916), who gave up his art to work among the poor, becoming a monk and founding two congregations-- one male, one female-- for charitable work. His life story was portrayed by the young Karol Wojtyla as a journey of spiritual discovery. He was beatified by the Pope in 1983, and canonized in 1989. On the occasion of his canonization, the Pope-- who says that the example of Chmielowski helped him decide to leave his work in drama behind and become a priest-- said that the ceremony was "one of the greatest joys of my life."
Producer Giacomo Pezzali said that the film version of the story seeks to preserve the original message of the Pope's play, indicating how Christian belief inspires concern for social justice and "the dignity of the person independent of his social condition, race, and religion."
Father Blet made his statement in response to a statement by Rabbi David Rosen of the Anti-Defamation League, who had pointed to one letter, written to Pope Pius XII by the vice-president of the World Jewish Congress, which was not found in the 12-volume collection. Writing in the Italian daily Avvenire, the Jesuit scholar said that there had been no interest in suppressing the letter in question, and that it could certainly be released if it was found in the archives now.
While the letter spoke of a Nazi campaign to eliminate Jews, Father Blet pointed out that there were many such reports early in the 1940s, which were difficult to verify. "In any case," he continued, "in his Christmas message for 1942, Pius XII spoke out explicitly against those who 'persecute, condemning people to death or to progressive enslavement, solely on account of their nationality or race." The Pope repeated that same condemnation in June 1943, Father Blet observed.
Father Blet also observed that the condemnation of racial persecution by Pius XII was the first public statement against the Nazi crimes. It was not until later in 1943 that the Allies spoke out against Nazi abuses, and even then the statement-- by Germany's wartime enemies-- was vague.
The Jesuit historian reacted with some heat to a suggestion by Rabbi Leon Klenicki of the Anti-Defamation League that the full Vatican archives should be opened, so that scholars could judge the material for themselves rather than relying on the work of the Jesuit team. Father Blet argued: "If one doubts the honesty of our work, one can also doubt the archivist, who could have destroyed important documentation." He said complaints about the validity of Church research were "unjust."
As for the secrecy of the war-time archives, Father Blet noted that the Vatican follows the same policy used by the US Department of State: "We do not publish documents which concern people who are still alive, our which, if revealed, could pose obstacles for current negotiations."
Leo Hindery, president of Tele-Communications, Inc., told the conference on "The New Technologies and the Human Person" sponsored by the Archdiocese of Denver that the Internet could be a powerful tool for communication between pastors and bishops and their congregations and between individual Catholics. "But as you can see, the Internet can be stunningly immoral. It has the power to corrupt absolutely, and your congregation needs your guidance on how to address the real world risks associated with it," Hindery told the 50 assembled bishops.
To highlight the immorality possible online, Hindery cited the example of a web site run by a young woman named Jennie who has set up a camera that broadcasts her life to subscribers, including moments of "dressing, sleeping, working, playing with her cat, and having sex." He advised the bishops to "remind your parishioners that they have the power and the moral responsibility to be the censors for themselves and for their families." Hindery said parents and not the government must be the censors of what children see.
"There's a great sadness in my heart for her (Jennifer) but also for those who go there to the site because it shows there's something missing from their lives," Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver said when asked to comment about the Jennicam Web site.
Roberto Robaina Gonzalez, the top Cuban foreign-affairs official, was received today by Pope John Paul II and by the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano. According to the Vatican announcement, the meetings allowed an exchange of information about developments in Cuba since the Pope's trip there in January. The statement indicated that both sides felt "satisfaction" on account of the "success" of the papal visit.
The Vatican indicated particular pleasure with the emergence of new freedom for the Catholic Church in Cuba. New developments in government policy has made it easier for the Church to make "a contribution to the progress of the society," the statement read.
The official announcement also mentioned "significant humanitarian gestures"-- a clear reference to the release of political prisoners by the Castro government in response to a request from the Holy Father. It has been widely speculated that-- at the behest of the United States-- the Pope conveyed to Robaina a supplemental list of prisoners to be considered for clemency.