Story by S.L.
LINCOLN (SNR) - A new
movie featuring Academy Award®
Nominees Andy Garcia and Peter O’Toole, plus other acclaimed
actors, depicts a true story of religious liberty that’s
particularly relevant to the world today.
"For Greater Glory" is
based on Mexico’s Cristero War (Cristiada), which raged from
1926 to 1929 and carried repercussions that lasted well into
1992. Some of the key figures in this war have been beatified
The film has been
widely applauded by Catholic bishops, priests, authors, and
"It’s an extraordinary
portrait of ordinary people struggling to defend their
convictions," said Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia.
"It’s among the most absorbing films by any director or movie
studio that I’ve seen in the past few years."
"It is not often that a
film opens a window into the past that casts so much light on
the present," commented Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix, a
priest of the Diocese of Lincoln.
The Cristero War began
when the government began attacking religion throughout the
country with anti-religious laws written into the Mexican
Constitution and outright attacks on people of faith.
Calles took office in 1924 with promises to "modernize" the
nation. His attack on religious freedom was particularly focused
on the Catholic Church, which he believed was too powerful in
Mexican society. The resulting penal code led to seizing church
property, closing religious schools and convents, and exiling –
even executing – Catholic priests.
Before the laws
restricting religious liberties, there were approximately 4,500
Catholic priests in Mexico. A decade later, there were less than
leaders sought a peaceful resolution to the situation, but the
Calles administration persisted. In August 1926, 400 armed
rebels barricaded themselves in a Guadalajara church and
launched a civil war.
Though outnumbered and
far less trained and organized, the resistance proved effective.
In late summer of 1927, the rebels recruited General Enrique
Gorostieta, played by Andy Garcia in the movie, to lead them to
victory. Under his command, the rebel army grew to roughly
50,000 troops, fighting under the rallying cry, "Viva Cristo
Rey!" (‘Long live Christ the King!’)
Numerous rebels were
captured and martyred by the Mexican government. Pope John Paul
II canonized a group of 25 Cristero martyrs in 2000, and Pope
Benedict XVI followed in 2005 with the beatification of José
Sánchez del Río and 11 others.
Blessed José Sánchez
del Río’s contribution is told in the film. At the age of 13, he
enlisted in the Cristero rebellion, against the wishes of his
mother, but with a heart for Jesus.
"Mama," he is reported
to have said, "do not let me lose the opportunity to gain Heaven
so easily and so soon."
He served as
flag-bearer for the Cristeros until he was captured after a
battle in January 1928. Even after torture, his love for Christ
remained steady and he refused to renounce his faith.
The war continued until
a peace agreement was negotiated with the help of U.S. diplomat
Dwight Morrow in June 1929. However, it was not until 1992 that
Mexico’s constitution was amended to reinstate legal status to
religious groups and lift restrictions on priests – too late for
most of the Cristeros freedom fighters to see the fruits of
In an interview with
Cybercast News Service, lead actor Andy Garcia noted a
surprising correlation between the themes the film and ongoing
discourse in the U.S. and other nations about religious freedom.
"There seems to be a
coincidence that these things are being discussed and debated
right now," he said.
Mr. Garcia continued,
"It wasn’t planned out to be that way when we made the movie...
So, it’s a coincidence, and it’s important, too, I think, to
recognize that if you don’t agree with something you have the
right, you must, we must, have the right to protest."
CatholicVote.org that he hopes the movie will teach people about
the necessary struggle for religious freedom.
"I want people to know
the story," he said. "It’s like the old saying goes: we study
history so that we don’t have to repeat it."
Conference of Catholic Bishops reviewer John Mulderig
recommended the film to mature adolescents and adults, due to
violence and "one mildly vulgar term." He stressed that older
teens might find particular inspiration in the portrayal of
Blessed José Sánchez del Río.
"…[T]he phrase, ‘heroic
virtue’ takes on a new depth of meaning when applied to José,"
While the major
Hollywood studios and distribution channels have resisted the
film to date, independent distributors are making the film
available throughout the nation.
"For Greater Glory" is
currently showing in five theatres in Omaha and Bellevue,
including the Great Escape Omaha Stadium, AMC Oakview Plaza,
Marcus Twin Creek, Marcus 20 Grand and Marcus Village Pointe.
It’s also scheduled for the Hilltop 4 in Kearney.
Efforts are underway to convince Marcus
Theatres to bring the movie to the Lincoln area.