The Vatican has denied reports that Pope Francis, merely days after meeting Hollywood actor and climate change campaigner Leonardo DiCaprio, will be making his acting debut in a new film about the Gospels.
A Los Angeles-based entertainment publicity and marketing firm made the claim this week that the pope would be "playing himself in the family film Beyond the Sun".
Monika Bacardi, AMBI Pictures co-founder and a member of the Bacardi rum dynasty, told press that "we appreciate Pope Francis' permission to film him and use his image in our movie".
“Our excitement and gratitude toward His Holiness, Pope Francis participating in this film is beyond words,” AMBI co-founder Andrea Iervolino told Variety magazine. “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.”
But secretariat for communications, Monsignor Dario Edoardo Viganò, poured scorn on the suggestion that Pope Francis “will play himself” in the upcoming film.
"The Pope is not an actor,” Mgr Viganò said.
He added that no scenes for the movie were filmed “for purpose,” although he does not exclude “as has happened before, video clips of the Pope could appear in the film”.
The film, which was set to begin production this year, aims to help children "learn and incorporate Jesus' parables" by portraying children from different cultures searching for Jesus in the world around them, the press release said. Pope Francis asked the filmmakers to make a movie that communicated Jesus’ message to children, it added.
All profits from the film will go to two charities in Argentina, which help young adults and vulnerable children.
AMBI co-founders Iervolino and Lady Monika Bacardi, of the Bacardi rum dynasty, will finance and produce the film. Graciela Rodriguez wrote the screenplay and will co-produce with Gabriel Leybu. Monsignor Eduardo Garcia will be Pope Francis’ advisor.