When a pope is elected, he becomes a shepherd to the faithful around the world, but his own journey of faith development has not ended. As part of the continued spiritual life of the pope and those who assist him, there is an official papal preacher, a position that was inaugurated by Pope John VI in 1555. Today, this office is held by Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, a Capuchin friar who has served in this capacity longer than any of his predecessors in modern times.
Cardinal Cantalamessa is the focus of a new documentary that is helping to foster authentic relationships among Christians of all denominations. Released in December, The Preacher to the Popes: Raniero Cantalamessa highlights the charismatic ministry of this fascinating friar as he works to bring baptized Christians to spiritual maturity and instill in the faithful a desire for unity.
In an interview with Catholic Virginian, Executive Producer Deacon Darrell Wentworth explained that the project originated with the concept of bringing “together Catholics, Pentecostals, Charismatics and authentic Christians of every tradition around the core message of the Gospel.” Deacon Wentworth considered Cardinal Cantalamessa the obvious focus of the documentary as he is “the only person in the world that is commonly recognized as authentically authoritative in every Christian tradition”:
“Everybody loves this guy because he’s just a humble man who has a grounded, authentic understanding of Patristics,” Deacon Wentworth said.
Cardinal Cantalamessa’s preaching resonates with the faithful, but he is also beloved by the popes. Normally, the papal preacher is a position that is held for 4 or 5 years, but Cardinal Cantalamessa has been in the office since 1980, when he was appointed by Pope St. John Paul II.
The humble friar was further recognized for his excellence when he was reappointed by Pope Benedict XVI and again by Pope Francis. He is the longest standing papal preacher in 468 years.
He received another honor – he was made a cardinal by Pope Francis in 2020, but requested that he not be ordained a bishop, and is now a simple priest who is also a cardinal.
As the preacher to the Pontifical Household, he gives reflections during each week of Advent and Lent, and also preaches at the Good Friday liturgy.
We mentioned how the film aims to foster unity among Christians of all denominations, and to that end the filmmakers encourage communities to watch the film as a group. On the film’s website, they offer an in-depth guide to organizing a screening for small and large groups. These screenings can be organized to accommodate thousands of viewers and are offered for ecumenical retreats and fundraisers to boot.
They offer options for both a streamed screening and a DVD, which can be played at convenience. Furthermore, the filmmakers will help screenings proceed with posters, tech support, and even guest speakers, if requested. They ask for a donation of $5 per viewer in attendance, which is quite affordable when compared to movie theater prices. Those who wish to watch the film solo might find it most convenient to stream it on the CMax streaming service.
Ashley Zahorian, director of The Preacher to the Popes, said of their screening services:
“Ultimately, we want to encourage people to be watching these meaningful films and discussing them in small groups. So step one is see it, so that you know that you can vouch for it personally and see that it would fit for your community, and then schedule the time that you can share it with your broader community.”
Visit CMax to learn how to watch The Preacher to the Popes, and find more information on how to organize a screening at the movie’s website.