Film Sparks Church Protest from Mexican Bishops

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico's Roman Catholic Church lashed out on Monday at a soon-to-be-released movie in which the hot young Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal plays a priest who betrays his faith and falls in love with a young girl.

The head of the Mexican Bishops' Conference said the movie "El Crimen del Padre Amaro" (The Crime of Father Amaro) poked fun at the church's beliefs and doctrine.

The film will make its debut in 300 movie theaters in Mexico on Friday and is expected to be a box office success, not least because it stars Garcia Bernal, who shot to fame in the prize-winning "Amores Perros" and "Y tu mama tambien"

"This movie makes fun of the most sacred religious symbols of the Catholic community and of the religious beliefs of Catholics," the chairman of the Bishops' Conference Luis Morales told local radio.

"With great pain and great worry, united with the bishops of Mexico, I protest firmly and openly about the content of the movie," Morales said.

Based on a 19th century novel by the Portuguese writer Eca de Queiroz, local media have said the film shows Father Amara falling in love with Amelia, a 16-year-old adolescent.

Mexico is the second most populated Catholic country after Brazil with 90 percent of its 100 million inhabitants professing to be Catholic.

Garcia Bernal said people should see the film first before criticizing it. "I believe the controversy arises because it is an honest movie," he said.