VATICAN CITY – This week Pope Francis met none other than Jesus in St. Peter’s Square. While greeting the faithful on Wednesday August 11, the Pope spoke with Jonathan Roumie, who plays Christ in the series “The Chosen Ones” and was visiting Rome to promote the show.
âMeeting the Pope was essentially the fulfillment of a childhood dream,â Roumie told Religion News Service later that day at the Indigo St. George Hotel in Rome.
Roumie has often spoken of his journey of “total surrender” to Jesus, a journey that took him from a broke aspiring actor to the star of “The Chosen,” a series telling stories from the Gospels and is currently preparing to film its third season, in March 2022.
Roumie had written a few lines in Spanish to tell the Argentine pontiff about the long-awaited meeting, where he thanked Francis and asked for his prayers as he took up the challenge of interpreting Jesus. The Pope’s face lit up when he heard of this, said Roumie, and Francis told him “that it is important that I invite him, that I find him and that it makes me very happy”.
âThe Chosenâ was released in 2019 and became a worldwide hit thanks in part to its crowdfunding efforts, the largest ever for a media project. The show has attracted more than 300 million viewers around the world. Reinforcing its popularity, the series is readily available for free through the “The Chosen” app.
A Catholic, Roumie was able to meet the Pope thanks to recommendations drafted by Bishop Robert Barron, who is auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles, and Reverend James Martin, who is counselor in the Vatican Department of Communication.
Roumie has been in Rome since last week and has toured the city and its historic sites, later accompanied by the show’s creator, director and co-writer, Dallas Jenkins, and Neal Harmon, CEO of Angel Studios, the distributor. of the show.
Rather than being drawn to the monuments, basilicas and works of art of the Eternal City, the actors and creators of “The Chosen One” were drawn to his relics, the testaments of the historical reality of Jesus and of his disciples.
âJonathan and I had a moment of reflection seeing the tomb of the remains of Philip and James,â Jenkins told RNS, referring to the tombs of the apostles kept in a basilica in Rome. âIt was a deep moment for me, just to remind myself that we portray real people,â he added.
Roumie was moved by a much larger relic, the 28 marbled steps known as the Scala Sancta or “Holy Staircase”, located near the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran in Rome and believed to be the same steps that Jesus climbed in Jerusalem to stand trial before the Romans. The praetor Pontius Pilate.
Like countless pilgrims before him, Roumie climbs the stairs on his knees, pronouncing the prayers which recount the Passion of Christ, from the Last Supper to his resurrection. For the actor, it was “probably the most powerful personal experience in my relationship with Christ that I have had since being here,” he said.
Its rise has taken on an extra spiritual (albeit metaphorical) dimension, taking place as Italy experiences one of its hottest summers on record, aptly dubbed ‘Lucifer’ by local media. âI was soaked at the top,â he said, but added that âit was worth every momentâ.
Relics have always been the key to the ecumenical efforts of the Catholic Church, serving as a reminder of the common origin of Christian denominations and sometimes even acting as Vatican ambassadors on long journeys to foreign destinations, as in 2017, when the Pope Francis sent the remains of St. Nicholas to Russia to rekindle relations with the Orthodox Church in that country. The Pope offered Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople some of the relics of Saint Peter in 2019 as a symbol of Christian unity.
Like Christian relics, âThe Chosenâ has appealed to a large audience of different faiths and beliefs. âThe fact that so many religious traditions love the show is not because we are trying to get so many religious traditions to love the show,â said Jenkins, an evangelical Christian and son of Jerry B. Jenkins, co -author of the bestseller “Left Behind.” “It’s because we just focus on Jesus and when you focus on Jesus, all those religious walls that people have placed between them come down.”
Part of the global appeal of “The Chosen” is how the story has been reduced to its essence, leading all faiths to claim the series as their own. The show “really comes from an evangelical point of view, but because (Jenkins) did such a good job just telling the story of Jesus, I’ve met people who think it’s their show,” said Harmon, a member of The Church. of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“The Chosen” has a Biblical Advisory Board, made up of representatives from various religious traditions, which will sometimes suggest “slightly different wording” in order to avoid offending religious sensibilities, but Harmon ultimately credits Jenkins’ creative vision for the success. from the Serie. The camera is hand-held, the textures are grainy, and the shots don’t hesitate to portray sweat, dirt, and dust.
âWe start by being genuine and human. That’s the goal, âJenkins said. “We are trying to find beauty and not to create beauty,” he added, reflecting on the masterpieces of Catholic sculptor Michelangelo, who saw his work as a simple liberation from the work of art of his marble cage.
Roumie says it simply: âWhen we stand by the truth, people cannot deny the truth, they can only respond to the truth. “
Despite its efforts to reach a wider audience, âThe Chosenâ has always had to fight against the fundamental divisions that torn the Christian community apart. YouTube videos show Jenkins hosting panel discussions with a Protestant theologian, a Catholic priest and a Jewish rabbi, discussing “red flags” that may be raised by the show.
âThe conversations we’ve had show how much we agree when it comes to Jesus and in healthy ways to discuss things we don’t agree on,â Jenkins said.
The director hopes Pope Francis sees the show. He said he admired the Pope’s ability âto take things from big to small. To make it a personal faith. Something that doesn’t have all the pomp and circumstance.
âAs an evangelical this really resonates with me,â Jenkins said.
Jenkins recalled that when Francis greeted him on Wednesday, he jokingly asked, âAre you Judas?
âProtestants and Catholics still have issues to overcome, more divisions,â Jenkins told RNS, laughing at the exchange. “Give me your best shot!”