I didn’t expect to take too much interest in the Pope’s trip to Romania (a three-day visit beginning on May 31), but then I saw the video produced by the Catholic Archdiocese of Bucharest to promote the Pope’s visit. It took me by surprise because it was so uplifting. (Watch the video below.)
Preliminary news reports concerning the agenda for the visit focused on fairly dark themes. There will be a beatification of several Catholic bishops who were martyred during the Communist period. Gloomy reports of simmering tensions between the Orthodox majority and the Greek (Byzantine) Catholic minority, especially those concerning disputes over Catholic churches that were seized during the Communist period, are in the air. Pope Francis wants to build better ecumenical relations through the visit, but some are pessimistic, saying Francis will never get the positive reception that Romania gave to John Paul II when he visited twenty years ago. Catholics are a small minority, not always respected by their Orthodox compatriots.
That’s the view from above. But the video, in contrast, offers a view from below, of a lively, joyful, Vatican II church. A sort of cross between a parish facebook and a promotional video, it takes the theme of the papal visit, “Let’s Walk Together,” and runs with it. The people in the film are not at all glamorous. But that’s precisely why it’s charming. It could be a parish. It probably is somebody’s parish. The film is expertly shot and edited. But because it includes so many people who are ordinary-looking, the polished videography never aggrandizes or idealizes its subject. They may be singing a song that puts their best foot forward, but they remain themselves. The video was made for internal consumption within Romania, not for export (the English subtitles were only added later). These images were deliberately chosen to edify and encourage its intended viewers at home.