(Photo: Reuters/Danny Moloshok)
Roma Downey, a Roman Catholic and co-creator of the History Channel's "The Bible" miniseries, said Pope Francis is "a new pope of hope," whose leadership and humility are sowing the seeds of hope in people's hearts and lives.
"It certainly feels like there's divine planning in all of it," actress and producer Downey, known for her 10-year role on the TV series "Touched By An Angel," said, referring to the pope's election last month, during an interview with Zap2it.
"The new pope, he's been wonderful, hasn't he? He's just inspiring such hope and belief," said Downey, who starred in the role of the Virgin Mary in the hit miniseries she co-produced with her husband, Mark Burnett, who is the creator of reality TV shows such as "Celebrity Apprentice," "Shark Tank," "Survivor" and "The Voice."
The pope took the name of Francis, the most severe critic of the papacy before Martin Luther. He caused a ripple through the Catholic faithful when the day before Good Friday he washed the feet of a woman – a Serbian Muslim inmate at a prison in Rome.
"People are reconnecting. People are being inspired by his leadership and his humility, by the tenderness with which he's approached his office, and the choices he's made so far," Downey said in the joint interview with Burnett, adding the pope is "showing a servant's heart."
Pope Francis is known for his pastoral skills and spirituality. He has urged leaders of the Church never to give in to discouragement, bitterness or pessimism but to keep focused on their mission. "Let us never give in to the pessimism, to that bitterness, that the devil places before us every day. Let us not give into pessimism and discouragement," he told the cardinals who chose him.
"He's certainly demonstrating how the rest of us can be in the world," Downey said. "We have a new pope of hope, and what we're going to see are seeds of hope flourishing in people's hearts and in people's lives."
Francis has told the cardinals that the Church must not become just another charitable group without its divine mission, urging that they must stick to the faith's Gospel roots and shun modern temptations. When he addressed the media for the first time last month, the pope reminded Catholics that Jesus, not the pope, is at the center of the Church, which he said should be "poor, and for the poor."
During the interview, sitting beside Downey, Burnett talked about the marketing of "The Bible." "The most important thing was grassroots and letting people know it was on. From a promotion point of view, the most important thing was to not allow any promotion that would not be taken right or didn't feel right. There's more of that managing what not to do than what we did."
Burnett added, "It really is in God's hands. There's no way that we could have planned years ago that it would be airing Easter Week. There's no way we knew that History would agree to air 10 hours over five weeks versus over 10 weeks. There's no way anybody could have predicted that the Holy Father would retire before he passed, and that there would be a new pope elected during the run of the series, and on and on and on."
Married since 2007, the couple thought of making the series based on Scripture about three years ago.
"I've loved Jesus all my life," Downey told The Christian Post earlier. "It's a passion project for Mark and myself."