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We Have a Pope

Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.

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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Columban: Columban was the greatest of the Irish missionaries who worked on the European continent. As a young man who was greatly tormented by temptations of the flesh, he sought the advice of a religious woman who had lived a hermit’s life for years. He saw in her answer a call to leave the world. He went first to a monk on an island in Lough Erne, then to the great monastic seat of learning at Bangor. 
<p>After many years of seclusion and prayer, he traveled to Gaul (modern-day France) with 12 companion missionaries. They won wide respect for the rigor of their discipline, their preaching, and their commitment to charity and religious life in a time characterized by clerical laxity and civil strife. Columban established several monasteries in Europe which became centers of religion and culture. </p><p>Like all saints, he met opposition. Ultimately he had to appeal to the pope against complaints of Frankish bishops, for vindication of his orthodoxy and approval of Irish customs. He reproved the king for his licentious life, insisting that he marry. Since this threatened the power of the queen mother, Columban was deported to Ireland. His ship ran aground in a storm, and he continued his work in Europe, ultimately arriving in Italy, where he found favor with the king of the Lombards. In his last years he established the famous monastery of Bobbio, where he died. His writings include a treatise on penance and against Arianism, sermons, poetry and his monastic rule.</p> American Catholic Blog Jesus was never a careerist or a glory-monger; he did not demand to be hailed as a king or lauded as a hero. He came to live among us, to suffer with us, and to serve us from the heart. He came to teach us how to love.

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