ROME (AFP) — Italian film and opera legend Franco Zeffirelli has agreed to become an image consultant to Pope Benedict XVI, the director said in an interview published Saturday.
The pope does not have a "happy image," Zeffirelli told La Stampa, adding: "Coming after a pope as telegenic as John Paul II is a difficult task."
Benedict, elected in 2005, "comes across coldly, which isn't suited to his surroundings," Zeffirelli said, adding that the pope's wardrobe "should be reviewed."
The pope's robes are "too sumptuous and flashy," the 84-year-old director of "Jesus of Nazareth" and "Romeo and Juliet" told the daily La Stampa. They should instead reflect "the simplicity and sobriety seen in the other echelons of the Church," he said.
The 80-year-old German pope "doesn't smile much, but he's an intellectual," Zeffirelli said.
The pope also wants Zeffirelli be a consultant to the Vatican "responsible for defending the faith in cinema, the image of the sacred," the director said.
"The Holy father is very aware that the Church's cinematographic communication is in ruins today. ... As a Christian I cannot stand by while this disaster unfolds," Zeffirelli said.
"I should have the full authority -- and the Holy Father would not deny me -- to denounce the continual blasphemies committed with the intention of popularising the Christian message," he said.
"You have to pay attention, as shown by the fallout from Mel Gibson's 'The Passion of the Christ' which irreversibly harmed the memory of millions of people," the director added.
"Images have invaded ... values that used to belong to preaching and the written word," he lamented. "Advertising language has become ubiquitous in the religious domain."
Zeffirelli has brainstormed ideas with the pope and senior Vatican officials, but will get to work in earnest after his staging of Puccini's "Tosca," which opens at the Rome Opera on January 14, he said.
Here is my suggestion to Mr. Zeffirelli; give the Holy Father a "German Shepherd" to keep by his side at all times. After all, I love my "German Shepherd!"