Discovery+ to Begin Streaming Evgeny Afineevsky’s Pope Francis Documentary “Francesco” in March

Pope Francis is making a new Discovery.

Discovery+ has acquired Evgeny Afineevsky’s documentary Francesco, an exploration of the 84-year-old leader of the Catholic Church’s ministry and moral leadership in a time of surging right-wing populist movements, a worldwide refugee crisis, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pope Francis

Discovery+ will begin streaming Francesco globally on Sunday, March 28, the start of Holy Week, which leads up to Easter on April 4.

“It is an honor to host the global premiere of Francesco on Discovery+, spotlighting an intimate look at one of the world’s most beloved and influential leaders, Pope Francis,” said Lisa Holme, group SVP of content and commercial strategy at Discovery, in a statement. “We are thrilled to work with a powerful storyteller like Evgeny on this important project, which is emblematic of our ability to expand our documentary programming aperture on Discovery+ to serve subscribers around the world with a diverse and growing slate of originals.”

Afineevsky earned an Oscar nomination for his 2015 documentary Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom.

For Francesco, he spent three years traveling the world to highlight some of the issues Pope Francis has made it his mission to address, including the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar, the Syrian civil war, global warming and interfaith dialogue. The director spent one-on-one time not only with the pontiff but with his predecessor, retired Pope Benedict XVI.

“I am tremendously honored that Pope Francis allowed me to witness and create this inspirational monument dedicated to the most pressing issues facing humanity today,” Afineevsky said. “His commitment to people around the world will lead us out of this difficult historical moment and into a brighter future. He is a beacon of light in this world for many and strives every day to enlighten people on how to build a bridge to a better tomorrow. It is extremely exciting to partner with discovery+ to bring his story to people around the world on the same day.”

Francesco premiered at the Rome Film Festival last October, where it made worldwide headlines for a moment in the film in which the pontiff appeared to endorse civil unions for gay people, a break from Vatican policy. The documentary also delves into the pope’s handling of the sexual abuse scandal that has damaged the Catholic Church’s moral authority.

“I wanted to give a voice to the victims of sexual abuse,” Afineevsky told Deadline last fall, noting that Pope Francis’s response to the scandal evolved over time, from defender of some prelates accused of misconduct to becoming a supporter of victims. “I wanted to show how the [pope] can [make] mistakes. How the person can investigate them, admit the mistakes. And take not only responsibility, but immediately take actions.”

Francesco was produced by Afineevsky-Tolmor Production with the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television.

Pope Francis to Receive COVID-19 Vaccination

Pope Francis is next in line to get a COVID-19 vaccination…

The 84-year-old head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State has announced that the Vatican will begin COVID-19 vaccinations next week and that he’ll receive the shot.

Pope Francis

The pontiff made the comments during an interview with Italy’s Canale 5 channel, set to air on Sunday night.

“It is an ethical duty to take the vaccine, here in the Vatican we will start next week, I am also in line to take it,” he said, according to a news anchor for the channel in a preview of the interview, which was released Saturday.

The full interview, which took place in the Santa Marta residence in the Vatican, will air on Sunday at 2.40 p.m. ET (8.40 p.m. local time), according to a press release.

In December, the Vatican deemed that it was morally acceptable to be vaccinated against COVID-19, after some anti-abortion groups raised concerns about how the vaccines were manufactured.

Some groups had suggested the coronavirus vaccines were made using cells from aborted fetuses. The cells are actually engineered and grown in labs from tissue acquired many decades ago, and are not made directly from aborted fetuses.

“It is morally acceptable to receive COVID-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process,” the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said in a note approved by Francis.

The statement was issued and signed by the head of the Congregation in response to several requests for guidelines regarding the use of the vaccine.

The pontiff used his recent Christmas message to say that coronavirus vaccines must be available for all, and pleaded with states to cooperate in the race to emerge from the pandemic.

Netflix Commissions Four-Part Documentary Based on Pope Francis’ Book “Sharing The Wisdom of Time”

Pope Francis is sharing his time

Netflix has commissioned a four-part documentary series based on Sharing The Wisdom of Time, the book written by the 84-year-old head of the Catholic Church.

Pope Francis

The show comes from Simona Ercolani and production company Stand By Me, partner of Asacha Media Group. It will be released in 2021.

The series will see woman and men aged over 70 from around the world share their stories with young filmmakers under the age of 30 who are from the same country. The elders represent various ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds and religions. It will also feature an exclusive interview with Pope Francis who will offer a unique point of view.

The book was edited Father Antonio Spadaro and first published by Loyola Press in the United States.

Pope Francis Endorses Same-Sex Civil Unions for First Time as Pontiff

Pope Francis is speaking out about same-sex relationships…

The 83-year-old pontiff, the sovereign of the Vatican City State, has publicly supported same-sex civil unions for the first time while in office, declaring that “homosexual people have the right to be in a family.”

Pope Francis

His comments were made in a documentary, Francesco, which premiered at the Rome Film Fest this week.

Directed by Russian filmmaker Evgeny Afineevsky, the feature documentary offers an intricate look into the beliefs of the leader of the Catholic Church, during which the Pope covers topics including the environment, poverty and racial inequality, discussing how the human race can prepare for a better future.

“Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God. You can’t kick someone out of a family, nor make their life miserable for this. What we have to have is a civil union law; that way they are legally covered,” the Pope has been quoted as saying in the film by numerous outlets including AP.

He also said that he “stood up for” legal protections for the rights of same-sex couples in his previous role as archbishop of Buenos Aires. During that time, he publicly supported civil unions for gay couples, though he has also been quoted in the past as calling heterosexual marriages “an anthropological regression”.

The film also features Carlos Cruz, a Chilean survivor of sexual abuse at the hands of the clergy, who has met the Pope on several occasions and tells his story in the doc.

Director Afineevsky spoke to media ahead of the film’s premiere to discuss gaining access to the Pope. He said the two became so close that he showed Francis the film on his iPad ahead of the premiere.

“Listen, when you are in the Vatican, the only way to achieve something is to break the rule and then to say, ‘I’m sorry,’” he told AP today.

J.Lo & Marc Anthony’s Daughter Emme Muñiz Releases Prayer Book “Lord Help Me”

Emme Muñiz isn’t old enough to vote, but she’s already a published author…

The 12-year-old Puerto Rican singer, the daughter of Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony, has released her first book, Lord Help Me.

Emme Muñiz

Proud mamá J.Lo spoke with Good Morning America about Emme, who sang with her at this year’s Super Bowl Halftime Show, and her love of sloths, which inspired the tween’s prayers book.

Emme came up with the idea with her nanny as she thought kids needed to be taught to pray, according to Lopez.

Lord Help Me

“They just kind of had this conversation, and she was like, ‘Maybe we can write a book where we can save the sloths, and we can use the money to save the sloths,'” Lopez told GMA. “I’m so proud of her to author her first book at 12 years old. She’s way, way ahead of me.”

Pope Francis Condemns the Death of George Floyd

Pope Francis is speaking out against racism…

During a speech from the Vatican on Wednesday, the 83-year-old Argentine pontiff and leader of the Catholic Church, whose full name is Jorge Mario Bergoglio, condemned the death of George Floyd

Pope Francis

He directly addressed “brothers and sisters in the United States,” saying he has “witnessed with great concern the disturbing social unrest in your nation in these past days,” following the officer-involved death of Floyd, an unarmed black man in Minnesota.

“My friends, we cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life,” he said. “At the same time, we have to recognize that the violence of recent nights is self-destructive and self-defeating.”

Floyd died in policy custody last week after a white officer knelt on his neck, sparking protests across the United States – most of them peaceful. Some demonstrations have turned violent and looting has been seen in cities nationwide. 

The Pope said nothing is gained by violence and much is lost. 

He also lead a prayer for Floyd “and of all those others who have lost their lives as a result of the sin of racism.”

“Let us pray for the consolation of their grieving families and friends and let us implore the national reconciliation and peace for which we yearn. May Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America, intercede for all those who work for peace and justice in your land and throughout the world. May God bless all of you and your families,” he prayed.

Maxwell Leads Congregation in Song at Cornerstone Baptist Church on Easter Sunday

Maxwell is celebrating Easter in big way…

The 43-year-old half-Puerto Rican R&B crooner surprised members of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Bed-Stuy, New York with an extra special Easter celebration on Sunday.

Maxwell

Maxwell, a Brooklyn native, lead the congregation with a passionate performance of Andraé Crouch’s “Let the Church Say Amen.”

In a video posted to Maxwell’s Twitter account, the singer, who was raised a devout Christian, can be heard preaching, “No matter where we go, whatever songs we write, it always comes back to God.”

Hayek Receives Olive Medal of Peace from Pope Francis

Salma Hayek has been extended a new olive medal…

Pope Francis has honored the 49-year-old Mexican actress, awarding her the Olive Medal of Peace at a Vatican event to promote the Scholas Occurrentes foundation.

Salma Hayek

In addition to Hayek, Richard Gere and George Clooney and Salma Hayek with the Olive Medal of Peace in an event.

Hayek and her fellow honorees have agreed to work as ambassadors for the foundation’s arts projects, said The Hollywood Reporter.

According to its website, Scholas is an International Organization founded in 2013 and operating under the auspices of the Vatican, which “connects technology with arts and sports in order to promote social integration and the culture of encounter for peace.”

Hayek was joined by husband Francois-Henri Pinault and daughter Valentina.

“Important values can be transmitted by celebrities,” said Lorena Bianchetti, an organizer of the event.

Pope Francis Opens Instagram Account

Pope Francis is expanding his social media network…

The 79-year-old Argentine pontiff, born Jorge Mario Bergoglio, has joined Instagram gaining 325,000 followers in a matter of two hours.

Pope Francis

In his first post on the photo-sharing application, the 266th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, who holds the username @Franciscus, wrote “I am beginning a new journey, on Instagram, to walk with you along the path of mercy and the tenderness of God I want to walk with you along the way of God’s mercy and tenderness.”

He also shared an image of himself kneeling, bedecked in his white robe with the caption “Pray for me” in nine languages.

Pope Francis

Instagram is the second social media channel that the beloved Catholic leader has joined.

In 2013, Pope Francis took over both the Papacy from Pope Benedict XVI and his Twitter account (@Pontifex), which has 8.89 million followers.

He also shared the news of his most recent account on Twitter, informing his followers, “I am beginning a new journey, on Instagram, to walk with you along the path of mercy and the tenderness of God.”

Pope Francis to Make Cameo Appearance in Faith-Based Film “Beyond the Sun”

Pope Francis is ready for his close-up…

The 79-year-old Argentine pontiff, born Jorge Mario Bergoglio, is set to appear in the family adventure film Beyond The Sun from AMBI Pictures.

Pope Francis

It’s the first time in cinematic history that the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church will play himself in a big screen feature.

The casting came about after the pope asked the filmmakers to make a movie for children that communicates the message of Jesus.

All profits from the faith-based film will be donated to two charities, El Almendro and Los Hogares de Cristo, which help aid at-risk children and young adults in need, and are located in the Pope Francis’ home country.

The inspirational story of Beyond The Sun is based on the Gospels and told in several tales. It will focus on children from different cultures who emulate the apostles while searching for Jesus in the world around them. The filmmakers say it is intended to “spiritually engage and encourage audiences of all ages to transmit Jesus’ words, to understand them and integrate them to live a better life, make good choices and help others.”

Graciela Rodriguez wrote the screenplay. The producers are currently out to directors.

“Our excitement and gratitude toward His Holiness, Pope Francis participating in this film is beyond words. This is not just a movie for us, it’s a message, and who better to have on your side to deliver an important societal and spiritual message than the Pope… This movie will provide funds to support extremely worthwhile causes that we take very seriously. This message and cause are very dear to the entire AMBI family and we are honored and inspired by the level of collaboration from the Vatican,” says AMBI Group co-founders Andrea Iervolino.

Principal photography is slated to begin in early 2016 in Italy.