Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, recognized Walter Salles at the Venice Film Festival.
According to Vatican Radio, Archbishop Ravasi brought the voice of the Church to the festival, to promote quality cinema.
"I am convinced," the archbishop said, "that there are still steps to be taken, above all on two levels. On one hand, I'd say, the level of quality cinematographic production, which so often apparently seems far from traditional religious horizons, when in reality, there is always a profound search inferred.
"On another level, I would say that there is no need to condemn all entertainment cinema, perhaps above all national and popular, because that as well, if it avoids degenerating, falling into the banal and the superficial, represents for contemporary man what previously happened when a person went to the plaza and watched the city."
For his part, Salles said the award is an "encouragement to write and direct my next films -- if there are any -- with the same rigor."
The president of the Italian foundation that organizes the prize, Monseñor Dario Edoardo Viganò, explained that "the criterion in awarding this recognition is the search for human and spiritual contents in the overall work of the director. What the award seeks to recognize is the interpretative density of a work that gives rise to intense reflection on the human experience."
The Bresson Prize, established in 2000 and named for the French filmmaker Robert Bresson, is sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.
Salles' "Central do Brasil" (1998) won a Golden Globe Award and his "Motorcycle Diaries" (2004) won an Academy Award.