Depardieu embraces God after finding faith in Augustine's Confessions
Gerard Depardieu, the French film star whose private life is almost as dramatic as his films, chose the country's most magnificent theatrical setting for what may be the most important performance of his life.
On Sunday afternoon, he stood before the congregation at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris to confess how the 'sublime' writings of St Augustine have shown him the road to his personal salvation.
The 54-year-old actor - whose name translates as 'from God' - then read from Augustine's Confessions, a multi-volume work which he describes as "resembling the poetry of a man who cannot understand what he is going through".
Depardieu said: "Augustine's quest touched me personally because it reflected my own fragility."
The ceremony, attended by cardinals and bishops, was broadcast live, while loudspeakers relayed the event to the thousands who were expected to be unable to get into the Gothic cathedral.
The star of films from Cyrano de Bergerac to Asterix, Depardieu revealed his restored faith in the religion of his childhood in odd circumstances last month. He insisted on reading from the Confessions at the funeral of Maurice Pialat, the director who had cast him as a priest in Sous le Soleil de Satan (Under Satan's Sun), which won the Cannes Palme d'Or in 1987. But it was not the role of a troubled parish priest fighting off temptation that reawakened what Depardieu calls his 'religious mysticism'. Instead it was the current Pope, who sent him on a new spiritual path.
Speaking after the funeral, Depardieu said he met Pope John Paul II in 2000. "He looked at me and told the cardinals around him: 'You must talk to him about St Augustine'," Depardieu said. "I had to admit that I knew nothing about him."
Confessions of St Augustine (text online)
11 Feb 2003