Pope Benedict needs a makeover. He comes across as too cold, flaunts too much bling and his robes are too flashy Zeffirelli says
By Malcolm Moore in Rome
Franco Zeffirelli, the film director, is in talks to head a special Vatican unit that will revitalise the image of the Catholic Church and Pope Benedict XVI.
Mr Zeffirelli, 84, whose film Jesus of Nazareth won papal approval from Paul VI in 1977, said Pope Benedict was upset at the “continual blasphemies” made by the media.
A stream of television movies and films such as Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ, and The Da Vinci Code, had left “deep and irreversible wounds” on the Church’s image, he said.
“Pope Ratzinger is aware that the way the Church is portrayed in the cinema is terrible. He has brought order back to doctrine and liturgy and will not tolerate this shameful anarchy in the representation of the sacred,” he said.
He added that the Pope’s own image needed overhauling.
“Benedict still comes across as quite cold, which is a problem in his job,” said Mr Zeffirelli.
“It is a problem I have discussed with key people in the Vatican. Even his wardrobe needs to be reviewed. The papal robes are too opulent and flashy.”
The film director said he was impressed by Benedict’s sobriety and that he was close to the Pope and other Vatican figures.
“I am in continual contact with his inner circle. The Holy Father honours me with his esteem.”
He had discussed the Church’s image problems with his “great friends Cardinal Camillo Ruini and Rino Fisichella, the auxiliary bishop of Rome, my great friends.”
They had drawn up a “proposal” for “an office at the Vatican for defending sacred images”.
He added: “I am at the Pope’s disposition. I must have full authority to strike at the continual blasphemies which are made by those who try to popularise the Christian message.”
He said the Church had finally realised that images are capable of “wounding our values”.
“I often hear repeated in the Vatican that these so-called holy films are a horror that the Holy See does not know how to control. If they give me an official job, I will give myself to it full-time,” he added.
Mr Zeffirelli, who has devoted himself in recent times to staging operas, and is about to open a production of La Traviata in Rome, has directed holy ceremonies at the Vatican in the past.