Pope Benedict, manga hero
A Catholic company is using the manga medium to introduce youth to the pope’s life and legacy
By Kathryn Oates
This summer, hundreds of thousands of young people will gather in Madrid, Spain to experience World Youth Day. An international event celebrating our Catholic faith, all youth are welcome to attend regardless of their religious beliefs, and an estimated 400,000 pilgrims participated in the last World Youth Day, held in Sydney, Australia, in 2008. To commemorate the 2011 event, the Catholic publishing company Manga Hero, featured in our April issue, has created Habemus Papam! a special manga (illustrated novel) featuring Pope Benedict XVI. The founder of the company, Jonathan Lin, took a few minutes to give Catholic Digest a sneak peek of what to expect.
What inspired the creation of Habemus Papam! (We Have a Pope!) for World Youth Day?
We first approached World Youth Day back in August 2010, asking if they would be interested in having us developing a manga centered on the event. We gave them several story concepts and they ended up choosing a biography of Pope Benedict XVI, especially since many young people don’t really know much about Pope Benedict. They wanted a fun and unique way to reach out to young people and also thought it would be a great way to evangelize, since the medium of manga is quite popular in Europe and all over the world.
How did your team react to the proposal?
We were ecstatic! I went to World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney and remembered the energy, crowds, and atmosphere during the event, so getting to play a role beyond an attendee in Madrid this year is amazing.
What is the manga about?
Habemus Papam! seeks to introduce Pope Benedict XVI to those who may not know much about him, except that he is the leader of the Catholic Church. This short story captures different moments throughout the Holy Father’s life — as a young seminarian named Joseph Ratzinger, as a cardinal working with the late Pope John Paul II, and culminating in the moments leading up to his election as bishop of Rome. The story then follows Pope Benedict XVI as he journeys to past World Youth Day events in Cologne and Sydney to teach young people about living meaningful and fulfilling lives.
What do you hope readers will take away from the book? How do you think it will enhance the World Youth Day experience for attendees?
We want this manga on Pope Benedict to show youth, and the world, that the Church is not afraid of modernity and evolving culture. It is not afraid to use, in this case, new and compelling forms of media to meet young people where they are. We hope the manga acts as a fun platform for people to learn more about the Holy Father and realize that the Church is relevant, visible, and active in modern culture.
We also think the manga will enhance attendees’ WYD experience by showing that the Holy Father is a real, genuine, and sincere person, like you and me. In that way, we hope readers will connect even more to his message during WYD — that we are “planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith.”
Will the manga be available to people who aren’t attending the conference?
We’re working on putting the manga up online or making it downloadable for mobile platforms like the iPad or iPhone. Stay tuned! We’re (also) working on creating a longer version that will highlight more events from Pope Benedict’s life, as well as include compelling stories from people’s experiences that are submitted online during World Youth Day. We’ll be choosing the most compelling stories to put into the extended Habemus Papam! manga.