2012-03-25 Vatican RadioOn Sunday, Guanajuato’s monumental statute of Christ the King is the backdrop to Pope Benedict XVI’s first Mass on Mexican soil. This giant bronze statue, 22 meters high, crowns the Cerro del Cubilete, its arms reaching towards Leon city, embracing the region renowned for being the cradle of Mexican spirituality. This statue is a tribute to the price that thousands of Mexican Catholics paid for religious freedom in the last century. They were known as the Cristeros and their motto was Viva Cristo Rey!, Long live Christ the King. Listen to Emer McCarthy's report:
Now an epic film is bringing their story to life and it could not come at a more appropriate time. “We didn’t plan it, and certainly the Holy Father didn’t plan it, but he is going there [Leon], he is going to the heart of Mexico not only its geographical heart but its spiritual heart”, says Mexican business man, proud father of four and erstwhile film producer Pablo Jose Barroso. He is just one of the faces behind For greater glory.
The film, one of the biggest and most expensive in the history of Mexican cinema, tracks the 1926-29 Cristeros War, when in an attempt to stop the governments’ goal of secularising the nation and stamping out the Catholic faith, ordinary people took up arms in a spontaneous uprising. The revolt was sparked by anti-clerical legislation passed by the Mexican President Plutarco Elías Calles. Under these laws church property was seized, all foreign priests expelled, and the monasteries, convents and religious schools closed. The persecution became so fierce that in 1926 Calles ordered the original statue of Christ the King destroyed. “It’s very important that the Holy Father goes down to Mexico to the heart of where this really started. Thousands will be there for him”, Barroso says.
Ahead of the Pope’s departure, Vatican journalists were given the rare treat of a special preview of the film. Directed by Dean Wright, For greater glory follows the true life stories of many of those who went on to become martyrs for the faith, some of whom have since been canonized and beatified. One of the most moving perhaps, is that of 14-year-old Jose Sanchez del Rio, who was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005. Excellently portrayed by the young Mexican actor Mauricio Kuri, suffice it to say there wasn’t a dry eye in the house, as the story of one of the youngest martyr in the Cristeros war unfolded.
“The movie is very important because it is about ordinary people fighting for religious freedom, which is also a difficult issue in these times, not only in the middle east where Christians are killed for their faith but also for example in the United States were Catholics are being forced to do things that go against their moral values”, noted Barroso. “I think it’s a very relevant story”.
Also starring Andy Garcia as the reluctant hero General Enrique Gorostieta Velarde, and Peter O’ Toole as an utterly convincing elderly and compassionate priest, the film runs at just under two hours, but the pace is fast enough to keep viewers involved. Apart from breathtaking locations, high quality performances and amazing action sequences, for the uninitiated, For greater glory is not only a lesson in history but in what it really means to stand up for what you believe in.
For Greater Glory opens in cinemas in Mexico April 20, in the USA June 1.