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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

We Have a Pope

By
Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
Source: AmericanCatholic.org

In Italian director Nanni Moretti’s latest film a pope has died and the cardinals are gathering for the consistory that will elect a new pope. A television newsman tries to interview the cardinals but they ignore him. His anxiety about being the first to announce a new pope mirrors the apprehension that the cardinals feel inside the Sistine Chapel.  At first the votes go toward the “papabili”, that is, those that the odds makers are betting on to be elected. However as no one name emerges, and various cardinals pray they will not be elected, an unknown candidate is elected: Cardinal Manville (Michel Piccoli).

He is stunned and when the secretary of state, Cardinal Gregori (Renato Scarpa) presses him repeatedly, “Do you accept?” Cardinal Manville blurts out “Yes!” But his face tells a different story.
 
Just before the new pope is presented to the faithful in St. Peter’s Square he refuses to greet the people.  Cardinal Gregori doesn’t know what to do; he is torn between presenting the pope and caring for a man obviously in distress. The lay Vatican spokesman (Jerzy Stuhr) begins to strategize about how to make sure the news of the new pope’s ambivalence does not get out.
 
They call in a psychiatrist (Nanni Moretti) who thinks he is “the best there is.”  But Cardinal Gregori will not let him speak to the pope in private and insists that he interview the pope in front of all the cardinals. When this does not work the spokesman accompanies the pope, in lay clothes, to the second best person in Italy to deal with this, a psychoanalyst, the former wife (Margherita Buy) of the psychiatrist.  On his way to the abbreviated motorcade, after meeting with the woman, the pope-in-waiting disappears. He has just admitted to the psychoanalyst that he had really wanted to be an actor when he was young,
 
This gentle man, who believes he has done some good in this world, goes on a journey around Rome where no one knows who he is. He is met with kindness, a man among many people from the world over. He encounters an acting troupe that is performing Chekov’s “The Seagull” and seems to find peace at last.
 
Of course things do not end here.
 
When I interviewed the director/writer/actor Nanni Moretti on the phone this week  I asked him if there was a subtext to his story, perhaps focusing on the human rather than the divine in a papal election. Moretti said that this story is his story, that is, the one he wanted to write, about a man who must reject his being the pope or deny himself as a person. This protagonist in the film had to admit that he is unable to represent all people, not able to accept the papacy and he does not want to. “He prefers to go through his own crisis and face his own fragility rather than be who he is not able to be.”
 
As for the very accessible humanity of most of the cardinals in the film Moretti says, “If they are not human then who is?”
 
I asked Moretti if he was familiar with the life of Pope St. Celestine V (1215-1296) who resigned the papacy, one of the reasons being “the stubbornness of the people”. He replied that he knows the story but he also read about all the recent popes who wrote about how they experienced indecision and questioned their own ability to undertake the responsibility of the papacy.  Moretti said that the story of Cardinal Manville, played to perfection by Michel Piccoli, is his own imagination at work, the story he wanted to tell. This comes out of Moretti’s respect for the cinema that “has the responsibility to create a new reality, not one filled with jealousy, intrigue and plots in stories already told. “ 
 
Michel Piccoli is very believable as a man in conflict trying to discern what he must do. Moretti, as the psychiatrist, brings humor to the plot when he devises a regional volleyball tournament for the cardinals to play as they wait for the pope to emerge. Of course, they think the pope is in his rooms praying; they don’t find out he is missing until he is found.
 
“We Have a Pope” is about the interior struggle of a simple man who wants to be honest to himself, the people, and God.


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Lorenzo Ruiz and Companions: Lawrence (Lorenzo) was born in Manila of a Chinese father and a Filipino mother, both Christians. Thus he learned Chinese and Tagalog from them and Spanish from the Dominicans whom he served as altar boy and sacristan. He became a professional calligrapher, transcribing documents in beautiful penmanship. He was a full member of the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary under Dominican auspices. He married and had two sons and a daughter. 
<p>His life took an abrupt turn when he was accused of murder. Nothing further is known except the statement of two Dominicans that "he was sought by the authorities on account of a homicide to which he was present or which was attributed to him." </p><p>At that time three Dominican priests, Antonio Gonzalez, Guillermo Courtet and Miguel de Aozaraza, were about to sail to Japan in spite of a violent persecution there. With them was a Japanese priest, Vicente Shiwozuka de la Cruz, and a layman named Lazaro, a leper. Lorenzo, having taken asylum with them, was allowed to accompany them. But only when they were at sea did he learn that they were going to Japan. </p><p>They landed at Okinawa. Lorenzo could have gone on to Formosa, but, he reported, "I decided to stay with the Fathers, because the Spaniards would hang me there." In Japan they were soon found out, arrested and taken to Nagasaki. The site of wholesale bloodshed when the atomic bomb was dropped had known tragedy before. The 50,000 Catholics who once lived there were dispersed or killed by persecution. </p><p>They were subjected to an unspeakable kind of torture: After huge quantities of water were forced down their throats, they were made to lie down. Long boards were placed on their stomachs and guards then stepped on the ends of the boards, forcing the water to spurt violently from mouth, nose and ears. </p><p>The superior, Antonio, died after some days. Both the Japanese priest and Lazaro broke under torture, which included the insertion of bamboo needles under their fingernails. But both were brought back to courage by their companions. </p><p>In Lorenzo's moment of crisis, he asked the interpreter, "I would like to know if, by apostatizing, they will spare my life." The interpreter was noncommittal, but Lorenzo, in the ensuing hours, felt his faith grow strong. He became bold, even audacious, with his interrogators. </p><p>The five were put to death by being hanged upside down in pits. Boards fitted with semicircular holes were fitted around their waists and stones put on top to increase the pressure. They were tightly bound, to slow circulation and prevent a speedy death. They were allowed to hang for three days. By that time Lorenzo and Lazaro were dead. The three Dominican priests, still alive, were beheaded. </p><p>In 1987, Blessed John Paul II canonized these six and 10 others, Asians and Europeans, men and women, who spread the faith in the Philippines, Formosa and Japan. Lorenzo Ruiz is the first canonized Filipino martyr.</p> American Catholic Blog We don’t have to scrub off our sin so God can love us. Instead, when we allow God’s healing love to touch us, we want to leave sin behind. Growth starts in love, not in guilt.

 
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