‘The Two Popes’ explores depth of faith, frailties of man | Inquirer Entertainment

‘The Two Popes’ explores depth of faith, frailties of man

/ 01:57 PM December 26, 2019

Does God change? Or is He static?

The movie “The Two Popes” (Netflix, 2019) stimulates a mental reckoning of faith, of who God really is, of the reality that man’s relationship with his Deity is beyond explanation and of a Church torn by the old and new.


While respectful of the Catholic Church, The Two Popes raises a myriad of questions which Pope Benedict XVI (Anthony Hopkins) and then Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce) try to answer in a sort of philosophical fencing at the garden of Castel Gandolfo, the summer residence of the Pope in Italy.


Like why would God stay the same when everything else changes?

Benedict has unsheathed his mental sword parrying that which was being wielded by Bergoglio, soon to be Pope Francis, in the cardinal’s belief that God is not static and moves through time as faith does.


“Nothing is static in nature, or the universe. Not even God,” says Bergoglio.

“God does not change. How do we find Him if He’s always moving?” replies Benedict.

“Through the journey,” Bergoglio answers.

It was seemingly a clash of dogma and revolution by two leaders of the Church representing stark contrasts in centuries of belief embodied by Benedict and a younger generation of Catholics embracing change as embodied by Bergoglio.

The garden scene turned out to be Benedict probing Bergoglio’s loyalty to Church and dogma but it was also a lesson in faith and how man clings to it despite many unanswered questions and, often, doubts.

Was Bergoglio unfaithful to the Church by giving communion to those deemed undeserving of the sacrament?

Bergoglio protests. Communion, he says, is not a reward for the virtuous. “It is food for the starving,” Benedict’s successor in the papal seat says.

“The bigger the sinner, the warmer the welcome” was the lesson about sin and sacraments left by Jesus, Bergoglio tells Benedict.

Benedict stresses the importance of “drawing the line” to which Bergoglio adds “and walls.”

“Mercy is the dynamite that blows down walls,” Bergolio tells Benedict.

The probing continues as Benedict tests how far Bergoglio had gone in his modern take on Church dogma.

On celibacy, Bergoglio tells Benedict that the original Pope, St. Peter, was married. “Oh, is that so? Thanks for letting me know,” came Benedict’s reply in a tone unmistakable for its sarcasm.

Celibacy for priests, Bergoglio retorts, didn’t become Church commandment until the 12th century. And angels? Belief in angels started only in the fifth century, Bergoglio tells Benedict in the continuation of their philosophical sword play, imaginary but capturing the characters that defined the papacy of Benedict and Bergoglio as Pope Francis.

If there was one phenomenon, or reality, which the two Church leaders found common ground to oppose, as The Two Popes implied, it was same-sex marriage which the movie tackled with a tinge of humor.

Benedict confronts Bergoglio with news reports quoting the Argentinian cardinal as speaking publicly in favor of homosexuality. Bergoglio complains he had been taken out of context.

“May I suggest that you start telling the newspapers the opposite of what you want to say,” Benedict’s advice to Bergoglio went, a potshot at media. “Your chances of being quoted correctly might therefore improve,” Benedict tells Bergoglio.

The mental sword fight continues with Bergoglio bringing the topic to the biggest scandal that the Church faces in its modern history—the abuse of children by priests.

“We discipline anyone who disagrees with our line on divorce, birth control, on being gay,” Bergoglio tells Benedict. “While our planet is being destroyed, while inequality grew like cancer,” he says.

“We build walls around us but all the time the real danger is inside with us,” Bergoglio says, thrusting his verbal sword at the heart of Benedict.

Benedict parries, telling Bergoglio that the Church has been acting on cases of pedophilia among priests but Bergoglio does not relent.

“We believe that it is better for nine children to suffer than if nine million lost their faith because of the scandal,” Bergoglio continues, slashing at the Church’s disturbing silence on child abuse cases involving its own.

The duel at the garden of Castel Gandolfo ends with Benedict telling Bergoglio: “I don’t agree with anything you said.” Bergoglio rests his sword and ponders.

The Two Popes is about the bond that developed between Benedict and Bergoglio when Benedict had been contemplating about doing the unthinkable for popes—resign and renounce the papacy. But it is also about how people who profess faith continue to struggle with doubts and uncertainty.

“Do you think a similar case 700 years ago would lessen the shock?” Bergoglio asks Benedict as he pleads for the tired pope to rethink his decision to quit.

But Benedict is inconsolable. He complains of not hearing God’s voice anymore, of not knowing God’s message when he became Pope, of finally hearing God’s voice and realizing it was Bergoglio’s.

To those, Bergoglio fails to find a proper response. Until it was his turn to enter the Chamber of Tears, actually a sacristy in the papal residence to where newly-elected Popes retreat quickly to meditate on the weight suddenly brought on their shoulders.

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There are good reasons to watch The Two Popes other than Pryce being a deadringer for the real Pope Francis or Hopkins trying to transcend his Britishness to portray a German Catholic leader.

The Two Popes beckons the faithful to listen, contemplate and pray.

TAGS: Catholic Church, Entertainment, movie, Religion, The Two Popes

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