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Vianney Drama Answers Question: What is a Priest

Contact: Janice Gonzalez, Saint Luke Productions, 360-487-9979

VANCOUVER, Wash., June 19 /Christian Newswire/ -- The Year of the Priesthood, proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI, begins today and as a key contribution to the celebration, a new theatrical drama VIANNEY will launch a worldwide tour with a premiere in Houston, Texas. The play focuses on the question, "What is a priest?" and tells the story of St. John Vianney (1786 - 1859) whose exemplary life was so remarkable that the Pope has named him the patron of this jubilee year, and will, at the close of the year, declare him the patron of all the priests of the world. The VIANNEY drama, starring actor and film director Leonardo Defilippis, will appropriately open on August 4, Vianney's feast day, and the 150th anniversary of his death.

The drama couldn't open at a better time. The scandals that have wracked the Catholic Church have damaged the reputation of the priesthood, and have tainted the public's understanding of what it means to be a priest. As a result, Catholics have been hesitant to encourage vocations to the priesthood in their congregations and families. "I think we are ready for a breath of fresh air, a celebration of all the good, faithful priests who give their lives for their flock," says Defilippis.

Francis Cardinal George, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops who met recently with Defilippis, and has gotten behind the project, agrees. The Year for Priests was proclaimed by the Pope, says Cardinal George, "in order to help all of us revisit what the faith tells us a priest is and to encourage ordained priests in their lives of service and dedication." Defilippis believes that through VIANNEY audiences will be inspired to a deeper holiness and appreciation of the mystery of the priesthood.

Leonardo Defilippis, who not only performs the role of Vianney but also spent two years researching and writing the script, is best known for his direction and starring role in the feature film Thérèse. VIANNEY, his latest production, incorporates lights, sets, costumes and an original musical score and utilizes state-of-the-art multimedia technology, which projects characters and images on screens behind the sole actor on stage.

Support for VIANNEY has come from all quarters, and continues to grow. In addition to Cardinal George, numerous other bishops, rectors of seminaries, vocation directors and individuals across the country have joined the "Vianney Movement," and are using the drama to inspire a new fervor in the Church. The enthusiasm isn't contained nationally, with requests pouring in from as far away as Singapore.

"John Vianney is without doubt one of the greatest shepherds in Church history," states Defilippis. VIANNEY focuses on the Curé of Ars, as he is commonly called, as he begins his life as a priest in 1815, following the chaotic time of secularization and anti-religious sentiment borne of the French Revolution. He perseveres against tremendous resistance, and even violent supernatural attacks. Vianney succeeds not only in reforming the lives of his parishioners, but also in drawing, by his holiness and his ability to read souls, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims to the tiny parish.

"The timing for this priest to enter the world stage is right on," remarks Father James Kelleher, S.O.L.T., President of Our Lady of Corpus Christi College. "We see many parallels to the current culture in which we live today. This is the story that many today, especially young people, are longing for -- a challenge, something to sacrifice their lives for that will make a difference in our world. John Vianney is the saint for all of us. He is a radical and counter-cultural hero in the truest sense."

For more information, call 1-800-683-2998 or visit (Saint Luke Productions www.stlukeproductions.com).