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Faith, Media & Culture

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

Out now: Pope Francis: His Life in His Own Words (Putnam). Award-winning journalists Sergio Rubin and Francesca Ambrogetti’s authorized bio of the first Latin-American pontiff is the result of a series of interviews with Jorge Bergoglio conducted over the course of two years when he was still a cardinal in Argentina. First published in 2010 (in Spanish as El Jesuita: Conversaciones con Jorge Bergoglio, the book is attracting worldwide attention.

Topics covered in the conversations include his personal recollections of his childhood, family days and early life in the seminary, his experience dealing with a military dictatorship and, of course, the contemporary issues facing the worldwide Church he must now lead.  Readers will learn the new pontiff’s thought on everything from sex education to liberation theology to movies (his favorite one is Babette’s Feast) to art and artists (his favorite, Marc Chagall).

Sergio Ruben is an Argentine-born journalist who covered the pontificate of Pope John Paul II he the election of Pope Benedict XVI. He has also interviewed Mother Teresa. Francesca Ambrogetti is an Italian reporter known for her work with Vatican Radio. Together they answered some questions about their collaboration.

Q: Were all the interviews done by both of you?

Yes. We were both present for every interview with him. We had monthly meetings of two hours each, for two years, although it took us about three years to finish the book.

Q: Did you write it together or did you write separately and then get together?

Each of us wrote separately and then we had long meetings to put the material together.

Q: Why did Cardinal Bergoglio agree to make this book with you?

As a matter of fact, it took him a long time to give us an answer and then, as expected due to his well-known profile, he suggested that we just use texts he had already written. We think that it was one specific question we posed to him that convinced him to have this dialogue. The question was about the meaning of his invitation to “walk the road of patience,” one of the virtues he most admires. Maybe, after hearing our question, he realized that the book could help people to better understand his thoughts and ideas. He almost never gave interviews to the press and the book can help spread his message. Besides, he knew our journalistic work, particularly Sergio’s expertise in religious matters, and this too may have helped convince him that we would do a serious job.

Q: When did your relationship with him begin?

Sergio met him in the nineties when he was responsible for the Religion section of the Argentine newspaper Clarín…As president of the Association of Foreign Correspondents, Francesca invited him to a meeting to speak about the financial crisis that was taking place in Argentina in April of 2001. The correspondents were impressed by Bergoglio’s modesty (he insisted on traveling the meeting via public transport), as well as the depth of his thought, the knowledge he showed about the countries they came from and by his brilliant analysis of the international and Argentine situation. It was on that occasion that we first had the idea of a book.

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Pope Francis: The Movie.  Actually, the working title for planned theatrical documentary is Friend of the Poor: The Pope Francis Story.  Producer Christian Peschken has already brought journalists/Vatican experts Andrea Tornielli and Edward Petin on board as script and project consultants.  Other participants are expected to include Spanish director Antonio Cuadri and Italian cinematographer Vittorio Storaro. I recently spoke with Peschken about the project and will share our conversation with you in the coming days. Till then, you can read more about it at The National Catholic Register.   

 Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
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