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Rome & the World: What the NYT thinks of ‘The Chosen’

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Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA

I.Media - published on 11/28/22

Also in today's headlines: Were local authorities to blame for China's bishop decision • and trad Catholics in Germany

Every day, Aleteia offers a selection of articles written by the international press about the Church and the major issues that concern Catholics around the world. The opinions and views expressed in these articles are not those of the editors.

Monday 28 November 2022
1. Jesus Christ, streaming star: The success of the TV series “The Chosen”
2. The Holy See’s statement tests Beijing’s relationship with the local authorities
3. A solution to the Order of Malta’s crisis
4. What is it like to be a “traditionalist” Catholic in Germany?
5. Cardinal Sarah: “Religious freedom is also under threat in the West”

The New York Times dedicates an article to explaining the success of the “surprise hit television series” about Jesus’ life, “The Chosen.” The show is one of the biggest crowd-funded media projects ever produced and will begin streaming its third season online in mid-December. Globally, 108 million people have watched at least one episode of “The Chosen,” explains the NYT. This series “conceived be a little-known creator, featuring no major stars and funded primarily, at first, through small contributions without the support of a Hollywood studio,” has become a major hit with the first two episodes of the show’s third season, which premiered in theaters in the US on Nov. 18, bringing in more than $8 million. “The fact that ‘The Chosen’ aspires to secular prestige TV quality is part of its appeal for an audience that has grown resigned to entertainment products that are often lesser imitations of mainstream hits,” explains the NYT article. In addition to the commercial success the series has become a “bona fide phenomenon in many parts of Christian culture, attracting a fervent ecumenical fandom,” explains the American daily. Felicia Maize, an evangelical Christian interviewed for the article, explained that she enjoyed the series because the Jesus portrayed in it “wasn’t some stiff and remote character from an old painting; he was relatable, like a best friend.” The show’s creator and director, Dallas Jenkins, an evangelical Christian himself, relies on a panel of one evangelical Christian, one Catholic scholar, and one Messianic rabbi to consult on the scripts. The title “The Chosen” can also be interpreted as referring to Jesus himself, to his disciples, or even any of his followers, including those watching the TV show. “I think that’s what the banner over the whole show is: Jesus is a personal God,” says Mr. Jenkins. 

The New York Times, English  

2The Holy See’s statement tests Beijing’s relationship with the local authorities

In an unexpected statement, the Vatican expressed its disagreement with the swearing in of Bishop Peng Weizhao of Yujiang. A “very firm stance” that, although generating a lot of attention, “does not mark an interruption or even an end to the dialogue between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China,” notes an article published in Italian site Formiche. Professor Agostino Giovagnoli, historian at the Catholic University of Milan, explains that the Chinese have not openly violated the Holy See-China agreement, which concerns new bishops to be ordained and not those already ordained. However, two problems have emerged from this decision. The first problem is that Bishop Peng Weizhao was “officially installed” – a formula used to indicate the official recognition of an underground bishop – in Nanchang as auxiliary Bishop of Jiangxi, while for Rome, he is Bishop of Yujiang and the Diocese of Jiangxi does not exist. The second problem is that the authorities have recognized Bishop Peng as an auxiliary, meaning subordinate to another, presumably Bishop Li Suguang of Nanchang (capital of the province of Jiangxi). In this configuration, the Catholic community of Yujiang, a district inside the province of Jiangxi which also includes some clandestine priests, seems to become a suffragan of Nanchang. This unilateral Chinese decision raises questions on if pressure was exerted on the former underground Bishop, and on the fate of the clandestine priests in his flock. Thus one can understand the Holy See’s concern for the internal unity of the Church in China. Giovagnoli emphasizes that the Holy See’s reaction highlights the role of the local authorities in Jiangxi. This is a recurring problem in China, where “local authorities often make their power felt on Church matters within their area of competence, without caring much about the dialogue between the Holy See and the central authorities in Beijing.” In this regard, the Vatican statement “is also a warning to the latter to call the (very powerful) local powers to order,” the professor concludes. 

Formiche, Italian  

3. A solution to the Order of Malta’s crisis

An English priest who is well informed about the recent developments in the Order of Malta proposed a solution to the constitutional difficulties encountered. Rather than abolishing the conditions of nobility for governing, he proposed that the Order ennoble its best elements. 

Catholic Herald, English

4. What is it like to be a “traditionalist” Catholic in Germany?

While the Synodal Way shapes Catholicism in Germany, “traditionalist” Catholics are also an important reality in this country. 

The Pillar, English

5. Cardinal Sarah: “Religious freedom is also under threat in the West”

Christians in the West should not take religious freedom and freedom of worship for granted, says Cardinal Robert Sarah in an interview with EWTN.

CNA Deutsch, German

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