Monday, 28 July 2014

Interview with Slovak Catholic Newspaper

Left to right Michal Benko (camera/editor),
Stefano Mazzeo (Producer/Presenter/Script)
Marek Poleck (Driector).

Battle for the hearts and souls of Christians on the TV screen
He has an Italian name but comes from the UK and considers himself a Celt. Thus, very briefly, we could imagine the writer, screenwriter and producer of documentary films, Stefano Mazzeo. He was visiting Slovakia a few days ago for the third time. The reason? Successful partnership with LUX communication.
Q – You’re visiting Slovakia for the third time. What project brought you this time to Kapitulská Street and the studios of LUX communication?
SM - I first came here in 2012 when we were preparing a documentary series about the history of the Catholic Church in Wales. You may have seen it, as Lux TV recently aired it with Slovak dubbing. I’m working as a television producer for the EWTN. This is now the largest religious television station in the world. Our intention is to shoot quality Christian programs, but in the UK we do not have the facilities. So we had to find a good Catholic television studio outside England. The choice fell on Slovakia. And we created our first partnership project - the documentary series Wales, The Golden Thread of Faith. Since this cooperation
proved to be successful, I was commissioned to write and produce another series, this time on the Crusades. We are finalizing the four parts of the cycle now where the controversial subject of the Crusades is handled from a Catholic perspective. We are convinced that the secular media do not give a true picture of this issue. So the opinions of ordinary people on them are not always correct. Christianity in Europe has existed for centuries but if it was not for the Crusades then maybe Europe would be Muslim.
Q - You took the Golden Thread of Faith in Britain to reveal something more? What inspired you to embark on something like that?
SM - For a full answer let me explain that my father came to Britain from Italy in the 1950s. My father married my mother, who came from Cornwall, she is a native Celt, and I also consider myself a Celt. Residents of Cornwall were once very Catholic.
The ancient Britons were Celts and knew two languages, British for everyday use and Latin for formal use and for the Church, as evidenced by many ancient inscriptions on Crosses and Bibles etc. But as the British media do not give a true picture of the history of the Catholic Church, I wanted to make a program that’s faithful to the history of the Church. I wanted to tell the story of the history of the Catholic Church since ancient times; since the days of King Arthur - if he ever existed - and before him the Romans. The Wales like England was Catholic. They did not want the Reformation. In fact, the people of Cornwall revolted, because after the Reformation the Mass and prayers were translated from Latin into English, and at that time they spoke Cornish and did not understand English. Again, this is information that today's media ignores. Since we wanted to put the facts right, EWTN allowed me to produce the documentary and sent me to TV Lux. I have to admit that until then I had not heard about LUX communication and TV Lux. EWTN recommended Lux as a strong Catholic station with excellent facilities and faith. At first I was afraid that they will not understand what I want, but I was very pleasantly surprised. Director Marek Polacek speaks excellent English, Michal Benko is extremely passionate and an excellent cameraman. Both are committed Catholics, which I consider very important.
Q - Why should we be aware of how much power the media have and what they are capable of?
SM – The battle for the hearts and souls of Catholics and Christians is being played out in the media and in particular the television screen. Many people do not realize this, but there it is. Secular television affects them and dictates to them their views and values, which they are gradually adopting. This is evidenced by this year's Eurovision contest. In order for Eurovision to be won by someone who acts weird and unnatural, ordinary Europeans must vote for him, - everyday people from all over Europe - and this is the result of long-term brainwashing, hence the termhanging out” in front of a television screen, and exposure to its impact. To give a simple parallel: if you throw a frog into cold water it will be happy. If you throw it into hot water, it hops out. But if you put it into cold water, and slowly heat the water until it boils, the frog will not notice the change in temperature. When it realizes that it should jump out, it will be too late.
Q - How do you perceive the faith of Slovaks compared with the British?
SM - Slovakia has an extremely rare religious quality. A large proportion of people still go to church, they are pious, and friendly. Please, do not look to the West, because it has been spoiled. Take for example my country, Great Britain. If you went to any large city on Friday or Saturday evening, you would meet on the streets a large amount of drunken people. Half-naked, drunken girls, dressed provocatively and lying around the streets - it's a horrible sight. And do not be charmed by our culture, because we in Britain have lost faith and young people have lost the meaning of life. The suicide rate is very high, there are even internet-based suicide clubs and websites which explain in detail how to commit suicide. Your Christianity here is very strong and is bearing fruit.

Q – The history of the Catholic Church in the UK is complex. What are the most puzzling, and perhaps the most dreadful, aspects of the Church’s history?
SM - The history of the UK overall is complex, as well as the Catholic Church having a complex history in the UK. Catholics have made many mistakes, but Jesus Christ came to make us saints, and to save sinners. I know very well that in some periods some Catholics may have committed many evil deeds. King Henry VIII asked Rome for a divorce. When it was refused he founded the Anglican Church, making himself head of the Church in England. He went on to have six wives in all, some he divorced and others he had executed. So the Anglican Church is founded on divorce. Some would argue that it was Henry’s daughter (by his second wife) Elizabeth I who founded the Anglican Church on Calvin's principles. But perhaps this would not have occurred, if previously there had not been a separation from Rome. Mary I, who was the daughter of Henry VIII and his divorced first wife Catherine of Aragon, restored Catholicism in England during the five years after the death of her half-brother Edward VI (son of Henry’s third wife). During this period, many Protestants lost their lives. However, there were centuries of suffering for Catholics, for whom participation in the Mass was considered treason. Hundreds of Catholic priests died, and were not allowed to celebrate Holy Mass publicly and had to hide. These people were heroes who sought to maintain the faith and pass it on.

Q - How do you see the status and current situation of the Catholic Church in the UK today?
SM - Worship in the Catholic and Anglican Churches is in decline. The UK, has about 5 million Catholics, of whom about 850 thousand practice their faith regularly. The same number of regular churchgoers applies for the Anglican church groups, which, however, has 35 million members. So percentage-wise, Catholics are doing better. Anglicans consider their religion as part of the national heritage; some of their ceremonies are also attended by atheists - who do so to be part of the tribe. There are also other Protestant religious communities, whose members go to church in smaller numbers. Muslims practice their religion as strongly in the UK as in traditionally Muslim countries. And a strange phenomenon occurs: many young women convert to Islam. The do not accept Islam just because they have married a Muslim. They do it out of conviction; - perhaps they are tired of the secular world.
Q – How do you engage Catholics in Great Britain, and are there Catholic faith communities?
SM – There some pro-active groups, and many other communities. Together with friends we founded the apostolate called the Crusade of Prayer; we Adopt a Celebrity, so we pray regularly for some famous person. I chose one influential radio presenter,-  whom I do not like, I have to admit. In his work he is very good, convincing, eloquent. Not everything he says and presents is true or fair, it just seems like it to the majority. But I pray for him, for his family, for his success, but above all, for him to accept the Catholic faith. Many other members of our group have chosen personalities from the world of music they like, although they find their lifestyles are not always compatible with Christianity. We also have another type of apostolate called Catholics, Unplug your TV! We are trying to convince people to turn off their televisions and not follow the secular media, because we know what they are capable of - we have a team of well over 50. If someone in our country turns off the TV and does not watch programs live they do not pay the TV license fee, and thus do not support the operation of TV channels that promote abortion, homosexuality and euthanasia. I can watch TV shows, including TV Lux (as long as they are not live), over the internet. As a producer, I have a lot of knowledge about how television works. When I see something that does not seem appropriate to me, I write articles, blogs, and draw attention to the biased media’s everyday activities. On our website you can learn more about this initiative.

Q - What are the relationships between religions in the UK, for example, between Catholics, Anglicans, Muslims? Is Islam really spreading in such a rapid manner, as we learn from the media?
SM - I would say that the Muslim faith is the only one that is growing in the UK. Relations between Catholics and Anglicans are good, Catholics are not persecuted in a physical sense anymore. Catholics have the Holy Father, the successor of St. Peter; Anglicans have the Queen, who is the head of the Church of England. The Queen even has the title Fidei Defensor (Defender of the faith), which was given to Henry VIII by the Pope before he (Henry) declared himself to be Head of the Church of England. Regarding Islam, it must be said, that there is a strong militant element, which does not apply to all Muslims. For example, in 2005, in a terrorist attack on the London Underground, bombs exploded and killed about 40 people; hundreds more were injured. When viewing our film about the Crusades, you will find that Muslims can spread their religion by the sword; Christians can’t do this, they must be peaceful missionaries.

Marek Polacek, for the production studio LUX communication, says about it:
Cooperation with Stefano Mazzeo and American EWTN Catholic television has opened our doors to the world. For 20 years since the establishment of LUX communication, our documentaries do not know how to cross the border of Slovakia. We did not process issues that might be of interest to viewers in other countries. We shot about what we understand and what we consider the most important ¬ - about Slovakia and Slovaks of the Church in Slovakia ... EWTN and Stefano Mazzeo, however, brought universal themes such as the Spanish Inquisition or the Crusades. For such a large topic we ourselves are gaining more of the necessary courage. But Americans and Britons simply feel at home everywhere and confidently want to produce for the world.

Stefano Mazzeo on the upcoming series on the Crusades
Professional advisers for this project include two professors of history from the UK - one from the University of Cambridge and the other from the University of London. In addition, we worked with two professors from the American University in Saint Louis. However, it is interesting that the most surprising information we received came from the professor from London who is non-Catholic. Regarding objectivity, my main aim is to tell the truth, but the truth from the Catholic point of view. If Catholics made
​​mistakes, I'm talking about it or I would lose my credibility as a producer. On the other hand, I’m not afraid to name the erroneous myths that the modern world believes. My intention was to prepare a spiritual documentary. Crusaders expressed their faith, and many of them lost everything, including their lives, so that victims of persecution could be saved. The project also looks at myths such as the myth of the Children's Crusade. We remember the siege of Jerusalem, the Jerusalem massacre and how it’s been used and exaggerated. Material relevant to both these events comes from historians. Regarding the siege of Jerusalem, Chronicler writes, for example, that people waded ankle-deep in blood, which is nonsense. In addition, he mentions that thousands and thousands of people were massacred, which at that time was not even possible - unlike today. Unfortunately, information about the Crusades were shaped by the Muslim view,  and the Enlightenment period, and modern historians like as Steven Runciman, who were not defenders of the Catholic Church, but secularized Protestants. It can be said that it was almost an agenda whose aim was to discredit the Crusades and the Catholic Church and paint them in the worst light.

ALŽBETA Šuplatová, ZUZANA Artimová
IMAGES: TIMO Pozděchov
For the Slovak Catholic Newspaper Katolicke Noviny
Notes: The article has been translated via a web translater
The new EWTN docudrama The Crusades will be shown between the 8 – 11 October 2014 before the first showing myself and Professor Thomas Madden will appear on EWTN Live with Fr. Mich Pacwa.
The Crusades contains interviews with four leading historians on the Crusades two priests and a well known Catholic Barristor.
It was filmed accross Europe and the Holyland and contains drama sequences and specilists Crusasder re-enactment groups.
For a preview trailer please click here EWTN - The Crusades

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