May God Make the Vatican Great Again





Hands down for me the best film portrayal of  a pope is Rex Harrison of Julius II in The Agony and the Ecstacy.   A sympathetic portrayal of the soldier pope, Harrison portrays him as strong, cunning, a biting wit, a true lover of the arts, and a man of deep faith who fears his service to God has been a failure.   Michelangelo was the master artist of his time, perhaps of all time, but he required a rough hewn pope to hold him to his task.


In the film we have the great Pope and the great Artist discussing art and faith in one of the more profound discussions to be found in a popular film.  The death bed revival of the Pope is also one of the more hilarious sequences to be found in a non-comedy!  I think both Michelangelo and the Pope would have been pleased by their portrayals in this film.  It does justice to both of them, and no subject of any work of art can ask for better.


As with all fallen humans there was much to criticize about Pope Julius.  He had a daughter as a Cardinal, and often his temper was violent and abrupt.  However, there was also much in him to praise.  He began the process of raising up the Papacy from the sewer left by the Borgias, he preserved the independence of the Papal States and rescued future Popes from being mere chaplains to whichever monarchy was the most powerful, and with his calling of the Fifth Lateran Council he set in motion the process of reform that would culminate in the Council of Trent.  His faith in God was absolute and he was a steadfast guardian of the teachings of the Church.  Perhaps the dreadful Alexander VI was given by God to be the Pope that Catholics deserved, and then God, in His mercy, after the 26 day reign of Pius III, sent us Julius II as the Pope we needed.  May God in our time give us a similar completely unmerited act of His mercy.

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  1. OT sort of…Sounds very much like the situation in the United States. God gave us Obama as a president we deserved. Then He gave us Trump as a President we needed.

  2. Although Sister Lucy of Fatima told the Pope to consecrate Russia in 1929 (before Hitler and the Great Depression), her plea went unheeded. It was supposed to prevent WW II. When Pope John Paujl II was almost killed, he did call the bishops of the world for the consecration that he made before the statue from Fatima. After five years, the Berlin wall did come down on the very feast of the Cathedral. Does anyone think that is all a coincidence? We could have saved 60 miillion lives if we had obeyed in 1929. Another important request of Fatima was that devotion to Mary’s Immaculate Heart be established. Compared to what JPII did for the Divine Mercy, efforts for that so far have been quite poor. It is clear that we are again paying for our negligence. Prophets are sent for a reason, and if we ignore them we learn at our own expense the cost of our disobedience.

  3. Jacob, are we going to have the divine mercy of God pitted against the Immaculate Heart of the Virgin and vice versa? As with all private revelation you can believe or disbelieve. Your argument for many trivializes what is already taught in Sacred Scripture and Holy Tradition. For many these are enough and all the private revelations are just that, private and not necessary.
    Dueling private revelations do not edify or promote faith.

  4. Dear Fr. Khouri, I am not proposing a competition of Divine Mercy and the Devotion to the Immaculate Heart. I was showing what can be done (as in the case of Divine Mercy), when a real effort is made. To see Fatima as something that we can safely ignore is a mistake, as I pointed out in my comment. The Popes have also shown that they take Fatima as something very serious — to put it mildly. If you read the comments of the then Cardinal Ratzinger about private revelations (in his offical comments on Fatima on the day the thrid secret was published), you will see more precisely what the truth of the matter is as far as private revelations are concerned. He takes the passage of John 16 where Jesus says I have many other things to tell you, but you cannot bear them now … and then he goes on to say that everything has been entrusted to the Holy Spirit who will make them known. Thus the Word of God echoes through history by the Spirit who makes known what the Word entrusted to him. (There is no truly new revelation since Jesus is the Word, but the Spirit makes it known to us when we are ready.) Pope Benedict wrote at length on this, and what he said was basically ignored. If you look up “dynamic tradition Benedict XVI” on your search engine, you will see what there is no space to say here.

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