New documentary chronicles the papal preacher’s ministry


Cardinal Raniero Catalamessa, a Capuchin Franciscan friar, is the subject of an 83-minute documentary film, “The Preacher of the Popes: Raniero Cantalamessa,” which will have its world premiere on December 18, 2021 at St. Patrick’s Theater in Norfolk. , Virginia, and via livestream on (CNS Photo / Courtesy CMAX Media via The Catholic Virginian)

By Janna Reynolds

RICHMOND, Virginia – Most Catholics are probably aware that there are specific roles within the papal household that support the papacy.

Many may not be aware that the papal household preacher, also known as the apostolic preacher, is one of these official roles, a role established by Pope Paul IV in 1555.

Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, a Capuchin Franciscan friar, is the oldest person in this post. He was appointed by Saint John Paul II in 1980 and reappointed by Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.

The faithful around the world will soon be introduced to the cardinal in “The Preacher of the Popes: Raniero Cantalamessa”, a documentary that aims to foster authentic relationships between Christians of all traditions.

The world premiere will take place on December 18 at St. Patrick’s Theater in Norfolk, Virginia. There will be an in-person audience for the film and it can also be viewed online at

“He’s an Orthodox charismatic, so he has this deep understanding of the roots of the church and the teaching of the church and the scriptures, but he’s also very much in tune with the gifts of the Holy Spirit,” he said. said Ashley Zahorian, director and producer of the film. The Catholic Virginian, Publishing Journal of the Diocese of Richmond.

“So he’s very popular in many circles, and he’s a very good genuine Catholic,” she added. “He is very popular among Protestants because they see what Catholicism should be.”

Zahorian first met Cardinal Cantalamessa in 2014, when he was the keynote speaker and gave a presentation on media evangelism at an Awakening the Domestic Church conference at Regent University in Virginia Beach.

The film’s executive producer, Deacon Darrell Wentworth, who serves at St. Gregory the Great Parish in Virginia Beach, worked with Zahorian to plan the conference. He then met Father Cantalamessa in 2012.

The deacon has been involved in ecumenism for the Diocese of Richmond since the early 2000s. He became a member of the Pontifical Council for the Laity in 2010 and, in 2014, was invited to represent the North American leaders of the Society. Catholic Charismatic Alliance Communities and Fraternities – the organization that wanted to bring the preacher into the papal house at this conference in Virginia Beach.

In their ecumenical work, Deacon Wentworth and his colleagues sought a concept for a religious film that could “unite genuine Catholics, Pentecostals, charismatics and Christians from all traditions around the central message of the gospel.”

Cardinal Cantalamessa was the answer to Deacon Wentworth’s search.

“The preacher of the papal household is truly the only person in the world who is commonly recognized as the authentic authority in every Christian tradition,” he said. “Everyone loves this guy because he’s just a humble man who has a genuine, grounded understanding of patristics,” the study of the work of the early church fathers.

After the Awakening Lecture, Zahorian obtained contact details for Father Cantalamessa at the time and inquired about the possibility of making a documentary.

“He said he had already turned down EWTN, but yes he would let me do a documentary about him because of the way we met and the level of trust we came from the same point of view,” recalls -she.

“For a documentary, there’s a lot of research, a lot of research into who to interview, interview them, and then take the hundreds of hours of footage and find what makes the cut of an 83-minute movie,” said Zahorian.

Deacon Wentworth said his job as an executive producer is to “make the connection and introduce Ashley and her team of reporters to people who are friends with the Pope, in evangelistic theology, leaders of pontifical commissions.” .

One challenge in producing the film was that the job could only be done when the team had the time and money available. The film’s budget is $ 250,000, a portion of which has yet to be raised.

Another test was COVID-19. As the pandemic made face-to-face meetings impossible for a while, some interviews had to be conducted on Zoom.

“I have very high standards when it comes to video production, so I had to overcome that for the sake of the story,” Zahorian said.

When one of the team’s post-production workers fell ill, others stepped in to help.

Cardinal Cantalamessa’s order was hesitant about the project because they feared it was too festive for someone still alive, and they wanted the filmmakers to consider waiting to complete it after his death. That changed at the end of 2020 when Pope Francis announced that the brother would be elevated to the rank of cardinal.

“We have been blessed to move forward,” Zahorian said, “so we have moved up a gear after this announcement.”

One of the things Zahorian said she admires the most about Cardinal Cantalamessa is the way he inspires everyone.

“You can’t watch it and not see the joy, so someone watching the movie is going to leave inspired to do whatever God calls them to do in their life right now, and this Christianity is full of joy. “she said.

“When you watch the movie, you’re going to see God moving around in each of the churches,” Deacon Wentworth noted. “This is the key. The Holy Spirit moves us all to a deeper fellowship with one another because that is what the Holy Spirit does.

He sees documentary as a tool for evangelism, which he defines as “the process of finding out who you are in Christ and then helping others find out who they are in Christ.”

After the premiere in Norfolk, “The Preacher to the Popes” will be screened in limited screenings, with the help of United in Christ, an international organization for the unity of Christians. Parishes, schools and other groups will be able to schedule screenings after the premiere.

“At the end of the day, we want to encourage people to watch these meaningful films and discuss them in small groups. So the first step is to see it, so that you know that you can witness it personally and see that it would be suitable for your community, and then schedule the time that you can share with your wider community, ”Zahorian said.

After Pentecost, interested viewers will be able to stream the film on demand on CMAX.TV. It will also air on EWTN, Shalom, Catholic TV, CBN and Stremio for a while.


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