Saturday, June 21, 2014


Pontiff Calls Clemente Film 'Heaven-sent', Cleric Says. Filmmaker 'Cannot Confirm or Deny' Reports
(Catholic News Wire, Rome, Italy)
Pope Francis, said to be "Perfect pope
to canonize Clemente, because they're both
Latin Americans & Francis thinks
outside the box."
(Richard Rossi)
'''Baseball's Last Hero: 21 Clemente Stories' is the Pope's favorite film, and he urges all to see it," a pastoral source said, speaking through a translator from Italy where he monitors cultural affairs relating to the church. "The film's catalyzing the commencement of Clemente's canonization as a saint and the Holy Father believes it's an answer to prayer for the conversion of the world. The Pope urges prayers for the film and it's creator Richard Rossi."

Richard Rossi, a lifelong Clemente fan, wrote and directed the baseball biopic to show Clemente's spiritual side. According to a letter Rossi sent to Pope Francis and the archbishop of Clemente’s native Puerto Rico: “Roberto Clemente was not only the best rightfielder of all time in his 18 seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but was also an imitator of Christ, dying to save others, on a mission of mercy to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. My film shows Clemente exemplified the Scripture, ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.’

Rossi told the Los Angeles Times in an article published last week that he has been gathering accounts of miracles that could be attributed to Clemente's healing prayers. The Pittsburgh Pirate icon visited hospitals in every city he played, praying for sick and dying children.

                                                              Richard Rossi 
                                                            (Photo by Teddy Sanders)
According to a new Religion News Service article by Heather Adams published in the Washington Post, Rossi and a group of volunteers are listening to people’s stories about Clemente, and they’re using the scientific tools of X-rays and medical records to verify tales of Clemente’s miraculous healing touch.

Rossi has allies inside the church and Clemente communities. Archbishop of Los Angeles, Jose Gomez, wrote him a letter in Spanish this week saying, "Count on my prayers for this project and I ask your prayers as well for me."  Archbishop Gomez is considered the most powerful Latin American church leader in the United States by the Vatican.  The Archdiocese of Los Angeles is the largest Catholic diocese in the nation, with Hispanics comprising more than two-thirds of the archdiocese's five million Catholics.

Letter from Archbishop

Rossi said he has not heard back from Pope Francis yet since mailing his last letter three weeks ago.  "Things like this take time," Rossi said.  "I cannot confirm or deny anything regarding the Pope's feelings for my film unless I hear directly from him.  I don't want to claim an endorsement from him just because others speak for him. I don't want Clemente's cause harmed by people saying ahead of time the Pope likes my movie when he hasn't seen it or that Clemente's cause is already being considered.  The groundswell for the campaign for the Church to honor Roberto Clemente is a grass-roots request and not just media-driven, although we've been blessed by the interest of major media to spread the word. I'm working hard to collect stories to validate the cause. My film shows his life of faith and sacrificial love.  Until I meet with the Pope in person in Rome, I'm under a gag-order and can't confirm or deny anything officially."

Duane Reider, director of the Roberto Clemente Museum said he feels that the most important part is not the way Clemente died, but the way he lived his life for others.

“He’s the only true baseball hero. He’s the only person, player that ever gave up his life helping other people. Everybody else, you know, Babe Ruth wasn’t a hero. He was a hell of a baseball player,” Rieder said. “Roberto Clemente was the only true baseball hero.”
The film is not without opposition, from within and without the Christian ranks. Anti-Christian groups are protesting the film because of it's influence in converting hostile regions to Christianity. Fundamentalists like Daren Moore of the Conservative Christian Coalition oppose the film for it's provocative images of Roberto Clemente on the cross. Rossi defended the images as part of a prophetic dream sequence signifying Clemente's last sacrifice.
                                      Jamie Nieto as Clemente in controversial scene.

The film stars two-time Olympian high jumper Jamie Nieto as Clemente and Project Runway Winner Marilinda Rivera as his wife Vera. The movie is sold on Amazon on both DVD and for a $1.99 instant video rental, contributing to it's viral spread throughout the world.  The Facebook page has garnered over 16,000 likes already.

                                                                The film's poster.
                                                         (Artwork by Matthew Dow)

"There's a very small percentage of people who walk out the teachings of Jesus in the real world like he did," Rossi said. "He died in service to the poor. He was a light in the secular culture, as a family-first man, a husband, a father, a baseball star."

Since international publicity in major media outlets broke the news this week, Rossi been the butt of jokes on late-night talk-shows and online ad hominem attacks on himself.  Rossi says he forgives those who mock his efforts and asks forgiveness for the sins he's committed in his life, and for the imperfections in his film and his efforts to honor Clemente.  

"I chuckle when I hear some say the idea of the Church recognizing Clemente's Christlike and saintly life is 'off-base' and 'out of left field,' but I'm pitching it to the Pope because when you think about how Roberto Clemente lived and died, it's not ridiculous, it makes perfect sense," Rossi said. "My movie shows Clemente as an allegory or type of Christ. He died giving like Jesus did when He forgave everyone, even those crucifying Him.  Jesus prayed, 'Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.'  What can be more saintly than that?"

Note: As reported in Religion News Service, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post, the campaign for Clemente's canonization is collecting letters of support and stories of miracles related to Roberto Clemente. E-mail to with your contact information. E-mailing your letter of support and stories grants permission to share publicly.
For additional coverage of the Clemente campaign/film, recent articles can be Googled and found in the following publications (Partial List): Catholic News Service, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post, Newsmax, Salt Lake Tribune, Religion News Service, Sporting News, Fox-News, Washington Times, Post Gazette, Tribune Review, Auburn Pub, Charisma News Service, Pittsburgh CBS KDKA local news, Seamheads, Latino LA, Backstage, Valley Star and more.