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The Vatican for the first time sent an ambassador to the Venice Film Festival Saturday to promote its own spiritual cinema gala and make contacts among movie moguls.

On the orders of Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Paul Poupard swept around the festival in his black and red robes between visits to filmmakers but said he wouldn't have time to mingle with the stars or see Kate Winslet's new film "Holy Smoke."

The pope, a film buff, has asked Cardinal Poupard to forge friendships with the film world as he considers cinema to be one of the most important forms of communication today, a Vatican spokesman said.

The Vatican will hold its own "Third Millennium" film festival in December. It will follow a war theme. Steven Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan" starring Tom Hanks and "Thin Red Line" will be among 20 films being shown.

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