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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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Monica: The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism. 
<p>Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted. </p><p>When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan. </p><p>In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below). Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste. </p><p>She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death. </p><p>Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his <i>Confessions</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog The Church really is my mother, too. She isn’t a vague maternal force for a generic collection of anonymous people. This Mother truly nurtures us—each one of us. And for those of us who are baptized Christians, the Church has actually given birth to us on a spiritual level.

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