Rome, Italy [R. Orsucci, A. Mazza, CD EUDNews].
December 15 and 16, Rai 1, the main Italian TV station, broadcasted a special program on the “Ten Commandments” performed by Roberto Benigni, actor, director, world-renowned comedian and winner of Academy Award (for the film 'Life is beautiful').
In Italy where religion has almost become a cultural tradition, where the Bible gives way to rites, formulas and religious habits, this event has attracted no small stir and a lot of debate.
Sadly, in a country known as the centre of Christianity, the Bible has been practically unknown, even in the churches, but the program hosted by Roberto Benigni was a ray of sunshine in the midst of gloomy clouds.
In a country where no one would probably be willing to listen to the reading and explanation of the Ten Commandments even for 20 minutes, Roberto Benigni has managed to attract the attention of 10,2 million viewers, 38% of the total television viewers, for 3 hours straight and two consecutive days.
Benigni has managed to introduce a living God, close to us, passionate and wise. "The Ten Commandments are revolutionary, unique and different from any other code of laws and rules ever! God introduces Himself as 'your God', an accessible God!"
The first evening Roberto Benigni spoke on the first four commandments. He gave helpful hints for those who have difficulty believing in the existence of God. He said that the commandments are the laws of freedom for the lives of men, animals and for the good of the land. He said that not using "the name of God in vain" means not to use God as an excuse for our own affairs and wars... not to manipulate the will of God for our own means.
He drew attention to the commandment on Sabbath rest to rediscover our own hearts and soul, our own balance in society and the world in which we live.
"The Sabbath rest commandment is the heart of God, the commandment for which God cares about the most, because it connects man to God, the Creator to creation. Since God rested after six days of creation, we too are invited to rest with Him after our labours."
Benigni reflected on the vanity of material things and the value of silence when searching for God, in admiration of all that He has done.
The second evening Roberto highlighted the commandments concerning human relationships starting with the family: Honor your parents!
"By spending time with our parents we increase the quality of our lives. After all, it is as if we dedicated our time to God, our first parent."
Then he continued talking about the value of life: Thou shalt not kill!"It is a commandment regularly trampled on since Cain and Abel. Murder begins with lack of communication, and misunderstanding with no personal contact. We must realize that every murder is like killing a brother, because we are all brothers, born of the same parents."
Do not commit adultery!"Adultery destroys mutual trust and damages loyalty, the greatest universal value of all. When we commit adultery we hurt our neighbour, breaking a covenant of fidelity and loyalty."
Do not steal!"We live in a world based on theft using a thousand different schemes. Now we boast when we manage to steal from someone, damaging relationships with our neighbour. We are no longer ashamed. And theft has become so natural that some big banks and company leaders manage to defraud entire countries and states".
Do not tell lies against your neighbour!"Testifying falsely against someone destroys the foundation of our society, which is based on trust with truth and authenticity. Lying against our neighbour is an abomination to the Lord, as we read in Proverbs (chapter 6)."
Do not covet your neighbour's wife, or his property or possessions! "This is the hardest commandment because of our natural inclination to envy, treachery and conspiracy."
Benigni invited us to see ourselves as unique beings, and not to imitate others around us, we should not try to be someone else, but find beauty and love in ourselves and in our own lives.
It was a strong sermon, a call for change in order to rediscover family values, life, sexuality, truth and honesty, seeing our 'neighbours' as a part of us, to find ourselves as part of an infinite bigger picture. Benigni wanted to call us back to an abundant life, inviting us to enjoy it in full freedom to express God's and man's best quality: Love.
It was well presented in a way that only director and Oscar-winning Benigni could; with enthusiasm he shared what he discovered about God and the ten commandments. His comments made many people reflect, not only believers but also non-believers, pastors and lay people, showing us that we can and we must talk to God and that His laws are not outdated theories but are proposed ways of life given to us by a God who freely loves us and want us to be happy.
Thank God for this gift, for the Ten Commandments, and thank you Benigni, for bringing such a fresh look at God, it was never done like that before... in a three-hour performance and watched by ten million people. God is good.
Pictures: 1. Roberto Benigni during the show. 2. Roberto Benigni winning the 3 Oscar Academy Awards, in 1999, Los Angeles, California.