Ahead of the Dec. 21 North American release of Steven Spielberg’s “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn,” the Vatican’s daily newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, called the classic comic book personality a “Catholic hero,” despite the series’ lack of explicit religious content. 

The cartoon’s young Belgian reporter, aided by his little white dog, Snowy, “challenges the arrogance of the powerful, veniality of the colonizers, protects the weak and oppressed,” the newspaper said. 

“Tintin is a Western knight of modern times, an unstained heart in an invulnerable body. ... Tintin is now all alone in initiating children into the values of chivalry.” 

The Vatican’s endorsement caused some stir in Europe, where some have criticized the Belgian creator Hergé’s portrayal of Africa as racist and colonially insensitive, and some bookshops sell the books with a warning label.