This is a movie about something that could never happen in American politics–2 leaders with deep disagreements finding something elusive–common ground.
In 2005 Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires and was summoned to Vatican City in Rome after the death of Pope John Paul II so that the new Pope could be selected. The process of picking a new Pope is arcane. The people have no say. The decision is made by a group of old men, Cardinals of the Catholic Church. No women vote nor ordinary people. One would think such a system could never work. What could be more undemocratic than that? Yet the Roman Catholic Church has survived for 2 thousand years. Any institution that can last that long deserves some respect. In any event, the Cardinals selected German Cardinal Josephy Ratzinger, and he become Pope Benedict. Cardinal Bergoglio, who later became Pope Francis came second in the vote. The two priests could hardly be more dissimilar.
7 years later Bergoglio has submitted his resignation, but the Vatican has not responded. The resignation cannot be completed unless Pope Benedict approve its. And he hesitates?The Pope and perhaps his biggest critic from inside the Church meet at the Popes grand Palace of Castel Gandolfo, the summer residence of Popes.
Like American politicians the two churchmen quickly find things to disagree about. But unlike the politicians they debate severely without corrosive rancor. When they are unable to find a way out, they gently agree to disagree.
Bergoglio comments that the churches of Europe are beautiful but empty. Pope Benedict, a traditionalist, opines that “change is compromise.” It is attitudes like that which make the Church so rigid. How can you improve on perfection? At the end of their first discussion, Pope Benedict says, “I disagree with everything you say.”
Yet, again, unlike so many politicians, they have more respectful discussions. For example, Bergoglio also complains, when seeing refugees on television that we are seeing the “globalization of indifference.” He also says, “Mercy is the dynamite that breaks down walls.” If only more of our political leaders had such wisdom.
How can you make a good movie out of respectful discussions? It seems impossible, but I would suggest that is what people actually crave and get so rarely. I must admit I found it a great pleasure. I must admit I also enjoyed watching 2 Popes watch a soccer game on television while Pope Benedict drank Fanta.
They even argue about truth. If these were politicians neither would admit any truth in the other’s position. Pope Francis takes a different approach. He says, “Truth may be vital, but without love it is unbearable.”
Eventually despite a deep chasm between these 2 men, common ground is found. Pope Benedict says to Bergoglio, that although he was waiting for the voice of God, he heard that voice through him. These 2 men may have been selected by a process that makes about as much sense as the election of American Presidents through the Electoral College , but yet they managed to see more than a devil in the other. I wish more of our leaders could do that. I also wish more of us could learn from these 2 elders.