Tuesday, August 25, 2015


A new documentary is in the works to trace the journey of Roberto Clemente's canonization to sainthood for his humanitarian efforts, dying in a mission of mercy to Nicaraguan earthquake victims.  The cinema verite film starts from the catalyst of Richard Rossi's indie dramatic movie "Baseball's Last Hero" which introduced the idea and received a blessing from Pope Francis to start the process, all the way to the hoped-for final resolution of "Saint Roberto" and a ceremony in Rome.

Mr. Rossi met today with the director to be interviewed by the award-winning filmmaker behind the project, but would not give the director's name.  

"When he formally announces the film, I can share details, but I don't want to give publicity about the specifics until he is ready.  I was approached to be interviewed for the film, it's not my project, I'm not producing or directing it.  I'm impressed that he is doing a thorough and methodical job, and his subjects in addition to myself include notable baseball writers, theologians, and those both for and against Clemente's canonization.  His prior work was well-done and garnered well-deserved festival awards and critical acclaim."

Rossi's interviews for the feature documentary are expected to be finished filming in September.

Friday, June 19, 2015


Pontiff Contacts Rossi: Will Rossi Direct Big Budget Baseball Flick?
Pope sent director Richard Rossi letter from Vatican
The media attention from Pope Francis contacting movie director Richard Rossi, about his film "Baseball's Last Hero: 21 Clemente Stories," a low budget indie that catalyzed a campaign to have baseball icon and humanitarian Roberto Clemente canonized as a saint, raises a question.  Will Rossi helm a new big budget movie on Clemente produced by Legendary Entertainment, the studio behind tentpole films like Jurassic World and Batman movies?

"We are praying and organizing to get Richard Rossi to direct the recently announced big budget movie on Clemente's life," Sister Mary Ellen, a nun familiar with the project said. 

"Thousands of us have been touched and impressed with what Richard did on a mini-budget directing 'Baseball's Last Hero: 21 Clemente Stories.' Pope Francis is a fan of Richard's film and will use his influence to get Richard to direct the next Clemente film. With a bigger budget behind him, it will be another masterpiece for the Master."

Filmmaker Richard Rossi "Clemente is a saint in my eyes"
The dramatic fulcrum of "Baseball’s Last Hero" is a conversation Clemente has with a nun. 

"She talks to him about the cross. ’Greater love has no man than to lay down his life for his friends,’ is what the nun quotes to him from Scripture, talking about ’sacrificial love and Christ’s sacrificial love,’" Rossi said in an interview with the Tribune Review. 

"This is the theme I wanted to point out -- an allegory of Christ on the cross." Rossi was pressured to delete the scene from the movie for being "too preachy and too Catholic." 

The controversial scene turned out to be one of the most popular scenes in the film and won over fans to the idea of pitching the Pope for Clemente's canonization as a saint. Rossi, a former evangelical minister, received several messages of support, including a letter showing papal support from Pope Francis in starting the process from the Vatican through the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, D.C. and from Archbishop Jose Gomez of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

Pirates player Neil Walker "wouldn't be surprised"
"I've never thought of him in terms of being a saint,” said Pirates second baseman Neil Walker,  a devout Catholic whose father knew Clemente. “But he's somebody who lived his life serving others, really. So if it would happen, I wouldn't be terribly surprised by it.” 

"If the Pope's influence prevails and Rossi has a big studio behind him, he'll take the heart and worldwide following for his first film on a cinematic and spiritual journey that will bring home the Oscar and encourage millions to love their neighbors like Clemente did," predicted the Vatican source.  

"I cannot confirm or deny anything regarding the Pope's feelings for my film," Rossi said.  "I don't want to claim an endorsement from him just because others speak for him...My film shows Clemente's life of faith and sacrificial love."

"I'm not interested in making a movie that's overly preachy or religious," Rossi said.  "The Christlike nature of Clemente's death in an effort to save Nicaraguan earthquake victims is organic to the story itself. Roberto Clemente is already a saint in my eyes by his actions and the grace of God." 


Thursday, May 28, 2015


"Baseball's Last Hero: 21 Clemente Stories" is a low budget movie on the life of baseball icon Roberto Clemente. The film was a labor of love made by volunteers on a shoestring budget. Two-time Olympian Jamie Nieto plays the role of Clemente, and Bravo's Project Runway Winner Marilinda Rivera portrays his wife Vera Clemente.  The indie-film got a bigger blessing than Sundance, Variety, or the Hollywood Reporter when Pope Francis contacted director Richard Rossi about the film's portrayal of Clemente's humanitarian sacrifice.  Maria Ramirez obtained an exclusive interview with Rossi for Catholic News Wire to reflect on the film's impact, felt all the way to the Vatican and to ask about Rossi's new upcoming film on religion, "Canaan Land," a controversial exploration of the false prophets of our day.  
 CNW: When the letters arrived from Pope Francis, what was your reaction?

RR: I didn't know what it was at first.  It had an official seal on it, and I honestly didn't know what they were. Pope Francis letters to me were always sent through the Vatican emissary office called the Apostolic Nunciature to the United States in Washington, D.C.  My thought after reading the first letter was, "Wow, a letter from the Pope.  That doesn't happen every day."

CNW: You've shared some of the correspondence with the media, I've seen coverage on CBS News, in the LA Times, Washington Post, and various other media.  Other letters you've elected to keep private as instructed by the Church. Some of the late night comics have made jokes about the Pope canonizing Clemente because of your film and that you and Pope Francis are "out of left field," "off-base," and other baseball jokes.  What's been your latest thoughts to the effort to make Clemente a saint because of the film?

RR:  Well, we had to make the pitch right?  The baseball puns and groaners are endless.  My personal opinion is that Roberto Clemente is already a saint in the best definition of the word.  I think he is more worthy of that honor than many who the Catholic church have previously given it to.  He led a Christlike life in the sense that he cared and laid down his life for others, dying in a mission of mercy to earthquake victims.  By the grace of God, and the actions of his life, he is a saint to me already.  I'm not saying he's perfect, sinless, or anything like that.  He showed us how to live with concern for others, for disadvantaged children.  Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.  The Catholic Church canonizing Clemente does not make him a saint at that moment in the future, they'll be affirming what he already was long before that.  I'll be thrilled if the canonization process we've had a small part in starting through the film comes to full recognition of what he did.

CNW: It was more than a small part, if I may say so. What is your own background relative to Catholicism and your views on the current Pope?

RR: I was born and raised Catholic in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  I grew up attending Pirates games and Clemente was my boyhood hero.  There's things I like about the Catholic Church and other things I don't. I like the history and the art. I was in Italy when my first feature film "Sister Aimee" was up for an award in Milan.  I toured the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel and I think they are examples of the importance the Church has played relative to art history.  Although my evangelical friends are loathe to admit it, the Catholic Church was instrumental in collecting the writings to form the canon and put the Bible together. Some of my youthful experience was in the fundamentalist circles where they tend to not understand the Catholic Church's role in formulating orthodox doctrine through the Nicene and Apostles Creeds. I tried to explain that to them but they weren't too astute to understand that. The Catholic Church is an important part in my own journey and history. My wife and I've participated in a couples group called Marriage Encounter which is a ministry of the Catholic Church.  My wife and I enjoy Mass.  My spiritual journey has led me to explore many other churches and books, I've never limited my mind and growth to any one denomination.  I've spent as much time exploring other groups outside of Catholicism as I have inside it. There are not too many denominations or religious organizations I haven't exposed myself to.  My bottom line conclusion is it's an inside job.  

CNW: What do you mean by an inside job?

RR: Jesus said 'The kingdom of God is within you.'  What is in your heart?   Listen to the Holy Spirit, the still, small voice inside you.  It's not commandments written on stone, the law of God is written in your heart. When we give away our minds and power to an external religious leader to tell us what God is saying, we get into trouble. I've seen problems when people do that in Catholicism, Protestantism, Evangelicalism, Pentecostalism, fundamentalism, and all the other "Isms."

CNW: What don't you like about Catholicism?

RR: There's quite a bit of sexual pathology in both the Catholic and Protestant churches.  The molestation of children by priests, and the pedophilia in fundamentalism, one recent case in the news is the Duggars, seems to be prevalent in rigid religion.  Several religious leaders I knew in the fundamentalist Protestant world molested one of their kids, their own kids, and some other kids in the church.  I know people who are very close to me who were abused in such a way by religious leaders.  That's the worse thing about it.  Some of the old school nuns were abusive, I experienced abuse in Catholic school as a kid. But I also know nuns that are sweet, wonderful, prayerful supporters of me and the film.  I've had friends who are priests and bishops who are wonderful men.  I've enjoyed spiritual retreats with them. The nun who was the real life inspiration for the scene with Clemente was such a person. 

CNW: Is it true that the scene you're referring to in your film "Baseball's Last Hero" with the nun and Clemente, the one that got Vatican attention, was added later and wasn't in the original script?

RR: Yes, I wrote it one night at the apartment of some friends of ours, Paciano and Molly. They were hosting the Marriage Encounter group on a Friday night. My wife and I finished our sharing assignment and had a few quiet moments and the scene came to me.  I wrote it down.  Jamie Nieto who played Clemente and Laura Alexandra Ramos who played the nun did a fantastic job with a lot of dialogue on short notice.

CNW: Is it true that Archbishop Jose Gomez, of the Los Angeles Diocese contacted you to support your film and efforts?  If so, he is probably the most influential Latin American clergyman in America?

RR: Yes, he's very gracious and wrote to tell me he's sharing our film with Catholic Athlete's for Christ and he's supportive of the cause.  
CNW: What's your feeling about Pope Francis?

RR: I like him.  At least what I've seen.  I don't really know him obviously other than the correspondence.  I like how he is willing to identify with the oppressed and not be so married to the wealth of Rome.  As a Latin American, he has the ethnicity to appreciate Roberto Clemente's culture.  He's been criticized for reaching out to people the church loves to hate, like homosexuals, Muslims, the poor.  My understanding of Jesus is that He was criticized for being a friend of the fallen, a friend of sinners and outcasts.  The Pharisees accused Him of being a drunkard and a wine-bibber.  I like the Pope's recent statements that salvation is a free gift of grace, which reflects my views and what I read in the second chapter of Ephesians.

CNW: Where can we see the film?

RR: It's available now for rent or DVD purchase at Amazon, Truli, and IAMflix.  Just search for "Baseball's Last Hero: 21 Clemente Stories."

CNW: What is your next feature film?
I'm in pre-production on a feature dramatic film entitled "Canaan Land."  It's a love story about a con artist preacher who is a televangelist.  He is Elmer Gantryish, and promises healing in exchange for a donation.  He falls for a female faith healing evangelist who is the real deal, a true believer.  The film shows the difference between a toxic false faith that hurts people and a healthy true faith that helps and heals people.

CNW: How can we support the effort?
All gifts to the project are tax-deductible and can be done through our Go Fund Me campaign at http://www.gofundme.com/canaanland 

Saturday, January 31, 2015


The formal case for the canonization of Roberto Clemente will soon be available in both English and Spanish and will address the Biblical and theological justifications, answer common objections and misconceptions, and discuss the miraculous  aspects of his saintly life.

The process of canonization is as follows:

Anyone who is a Christian, (not necessarily an exclusively Catholic Christian), can be named a saint by the Roman Catholic Church. Also, it only takes the Bishop of the candidates home diocese where he died (San Juan, P.R.) to submit a request to Rome for the Canonization process to begin.  In rare cases, if the home diocese is not diligent to begin the process it can be started by the Pope.  The complete process for the induction of a new Saint is as follows:  On September 12, 1997, through the Vatican Information Service, the Holy See Press Office in Vatican City made public the following note on canonical procedure for causes of beatification and canonization:

1. Canon norms regarding the procedure to be followed for causes of saints are contained in the Apostolic Constitution Divinus Perfectionis Magister, promulgated by John Paul II on January 25, 1983.

2. To begin a cause it is necessary for at least 5 years to have passed since the death of the candidate. This is to allow greater balance and objectivity in evaluating the case and to let the emotions of the moment dissipate.

3. The bishop of the diocese in which the person whose beatification is being requested died is responsible for beginning the investigation. The promoter asks the bishop for the opening of the investigation. The bishop, once the nulla osta (no impediment) of the Holy See is obtained, forms a diocesan tribunal for this purpose. Witnesses are called before the tribunal to recount concrete facts on the exercise of Christian virtues considered heroic, that is, the theological virtues: faith, hope and charity, and the cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude, and others specific to his/her state in life. In addition, all documents regarding the candidate must be gathered. At this point he/she is entitled to the title of Servant of God.

4. Once the diocesan investigation is finished, the acts and documentation are passed on to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The public copy used for further work is put together here. The postulator, resident in Rome, follows the preparation of the summary of the documentation that proves the heroic exercise of virtue, under the direction of a relator of the Congregation. The Positio undergoes an examination (theological) by nine theologians who give their vote. If the majority of the theologians are in favor, the cause is passed on for examination by cardinals and bishops who are members of the congregation. They hold meetings twice a month. If their judgment is favorable, the prefect of the congregation presents the results of the entire course of the cause to the Holy Father, who gives his approval and authorizes the congregation to draft the relative decree. The public reading and promulgation of the decree follows.

5. For the beatification of a confessor a miracle attributed to the Servant of God, verified after his/her death, is necessary. The required miracle must be proven through the appropriate canonical investigation, following a procedure analogous to that for heroic virtues. This one too is concluded with the relative decree. Once the two decrees are promulgated (regarding the heroic virtues and the miracle) the Holy Father decides on beatification, which is the concession of public honor, limited to a particular sphere. With beatification the candidate receives the title of Blessed.

6. For canonization another miracle is needed, attributed to the intercession of the Blessed and having occurred after his/her beatification. The methods for ascertainment of the affirmed miracle are the same as those followed for beatification. Canonization is understood as the concession of public worship in the Universal Church. Pontifical infallibility is involved. With canonization, the Blessed acquires the title of Saint. 

This information is found in the Apostolic Constitution Divinus Perfectionis Magister, promulgated by John Paul II on January 25, 1983.  There is no actual rule against a non-Catholic becoming a saint, the issue is that the Bishop of the candidate would need to begin the process. And if, for example, a Presbyterian Bishop were to submit a candidate for Canonization to Rome, that would imply that even non-Catholic denominations of Christianity are subservient to the Most Holy Pontiff and the Holy See.

Thursday, January 22, 2015


Although filmmaker Richard Rossi's movie "Baseball's Last Hero" started the Clemente canonization campaign, he said he "is not the most qualified person to lead the campaign" and needs "a team to pick up the torch."  Rossi said by email he is "recruiting others to take over the issue of Roberto Clemente's sainthood." (Although Richard has done some current interviews as he has ability to do so.)  "We need others motivated by the same love we feel for Christ and for Roberto Clemente," Rossi said.  "I grew up as a boy in Pittsburgh watching Roberto play.  Sainthood seems like an honor he is worthy of to us."

In an email sent from Rossi and his wife, they detailed more information on the canonization committee that is forming.  "We want to hand the ball off, to pass the torch to others to continue this grassroots movement.  We are currently researching the backgrounds of Catholic leaders contacting us with messages of support to find the best qualified candidates to form a canonization committee of priests, nuns, and lay leaders who will assist in talking with the Archbishop in San Juan, talking to media, meeting with any friends or family of Clemente if the Archbishop requests, and if he greenlights the canonization, answering objections to Clemente's canonization and the arguments opposing it, communicating with Latin America, and gathering and evaluating evidence of miracles."
If you have a clergy member or church leader you feel could assist with this effort, email their name to ClementeCanonization@gmail.com

Friday, January 9, 2015


Pope Francis sent a letter of blessing to the efforts to canonize Pittsburgh Pirates baseball legend Roberto Clemente today. The notification from the Pope came today through his representative, the United States Apostolic Nunciature to Pittsburgh native Richard Rossi, who wrote and directed the feature film "Baseball's Last Hero: 21 Clemente Stories," a feature dramatic film that has catalyzed an effort to canonize Clemente as a saint. The letter is from the Undersecretary of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints telling Senor Rossi he has handled the start of the process correctly by his beginning dialogues and answering questions with the bishop of San Juan (the diocese Clemente died in when his plane crashed in a humanitarian mission of mercy).