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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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Gregory VII: The 10th century and the first half of the 11th were dark days for the Church, partly because the papacy was the pawn of various Roman families. In 1049, things began to change when Pope Leo IX, a reformer, was elected. He brought a young monk named Hildebrand to Rome as his counselor and special representative on important missions. He was to become Gregory VII. 
<p>Three evils plagued the Church then: simony (the buying and selling of sacred offices and things), the unlawful marriage of the clergy and lay investiture (kings and nobles controlling the appointment of Church officials). To all of these Hildebrand directed his reformer’s attention, first as counselor to the popes and later (1073-1085) as pope himself. </p><p>Gregory’s papal letters stress the role of bishop of Rome as the vicar of Christ and the visible center of unity in the Church. He is well known for his long dispute with Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV over who should control the selection of bishops and abbots. </p><p>Gregory fiercely resisted any attack on the liberty of the Church. For this he suffered and finally died in exile. He said, “I have loved justice and hated iniquity; therefore I die in exile.” Thirty years later the Church finally won its struggle against lay investiture.</p> American Catholic Blog In Christ, true God and true man, our humanity was taken to God. Christ opened the path to us. If we entrust our life to him, if we let ourselves be guided by him, we are certain to be in safe hands, in the hands of our Savior.

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