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 CNS Story:

NATIVITY-VATICAN Nov-28-2006 (450 words) With photos posted Nov. 15, 16 and 28. xxxi

Vatican officials give thumbs up for 'The Nativity Story'

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Vatican officials have given the latest Hollywood re-enactment of the Gospel accounts of Jesus' birth a thumbs up after hosting the film's world premiere Nov. 26.

Praise for "The Nativity Story," due out in U.S. theaters Dec. 1, came from the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano; the Vatican's secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone; and the head of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, U.S. Archbishop John P. Foley.

"It's well done," Cardinal Bertone told journalists after seeing the film in the Vatican's Paul VI hall together with more than 7,000 other invited guests. Pope Benedict XVI, who was due to fly to Turkey less than 40 hours later, did not attend the evening event.

"It retells this event which changed history with realism but also with a sense of great respect of the mystery of the Nativity," said Cardinal Bertone, adding that he found it to be "a good cinematic" feature.

The benefit event raised money to build two new schools in the Israeli village of Mughar in Galilee. Christian, Muslim and Druze students will attend the elementary and middle schools.

Thunderous applause broke out several times during the film's 90-minute showing, with the most enthusiastic being during the scene of Christ's birth in Bethlehem.

Archbishop Foley said Rolf Mittweg, president of the film's distributor, New Line Cinema, told him he was "stunned, but happy" the film generated so much applause.

"I told him it was because they were pleased to see an affirmation of (the Christian) faith," the archbishop said.

In his opening remarks before the nearly full audience hall, Archbishop Foley said it was "nice to be able to have something religious for Christmas."

The film, which revives the true meaning of the season, comes at a time when "people are afraid of saying 'Merry Christmas'" and makes people "proud to say 'Merry Christmas,'" he said.

The archbishop told Catholic News Service he found the film to be "very moving" and thought "the part of Joseph was sensitively scripted and played."

Cardinal Bertone also praised the way the scriptwriter, Mike Rich, crafted "very beautiful dialogue" between the characters, especially in fleshing out Joseph and Mary's relationship and how "they together accepted the mystery of God's plan for them."

"In particular, Joseph is the example of how an honest and righteous man, who undergoes a humanly upsetting experience" -- finding out his betrothed is pregnant -- can still "abandon himself completely to God's plan."

Meanwhile, L'Osservatore Romano called the feature film "graceful and unpretentious," praising it for being a light, happy and imaginative retelling of the story of Joseph, Mary and Christ's birth.


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