US Catholic Faith in Real Life

In new pope biopic, Pope Francis finds space to speak

‘Pope Francis: A Man of His Word’ is more than just the top hits of Francis’ papacy.

By Kathleen Manning | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
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Midway through the documentary Pope Francis: A Man of His Word, there is an image that brings to mind scenes from May’s Met Gala celebrating Catholic imagination in fashion. Notably, there was no outfit at the ball resembling the cheap yellow rain poncho Pope Francis wore to celebrate Mass in the Philippines during a tropical storm. Nor was there anything resembling the simple habit papal namesake and ex-fashionista Francis of Assisi donned after renouncing his wealth to take up preaching the gospel.

The documentary highlights the links between Pope Francis and Francis of Assisi—their concern for nature, their service to the poor, their calls for peace and reconciliation. Short scenes from Francis of Assisi’s life shot to resemble a silent movie intercut with footage from Pope Francis’ apostolic visits and papal audiences.

Most of the documentary, though, has Francis speaking directly to the camera, and the viewer, in his native Spanish. Little here will likely surprise anyone even casually familiar with Francis’ statements and actions since becoming pope in 2013. Still, the documentary does more than simply play the hits—Francis in the little Fiat! Francis washing the feet of prisoners! Instead, it feels like a wide-ranging discourse from a thoughtful public figure whose ideas are often edited down to sound-bites. 

Critics will find plenty to dislike, especially in the pope’s unrelenting criticism of capitalism, as Francis flatly states “an economy that excludes is an economy that kills.” No one is let off the hook. Asked by an Italian school child about eschewing the fancy papal apartment Francis replies, “We can all be a little poorer.” How we can all be a little poorer is the work of the Catholic imagination, and this film challenges its viewers to put their imaginations to work.

Image: Flickr cc via Aleteia Image Department

Published: 
Monday, June 18, 2018