'The Two Popes'

John Thomas
JONATHAN PRYCE as Pope Francis and Anthony Hopkins as Pope Benedict XVI.

The year is 2005. The Cardinals, resplendent in their cardinal red robes, flutter around Vatican City in Rome like a flock of cardinals hovering over a bowl of sunflower seeds. They are busy, gossipy and anxious, having been summoned to begin the arduous process of electing a new Pope.

As in most large gatherings whether of animals or people, be it in an office, warehouse or the sky, chatter and gossip abound. Humans don’t know what the birds chirp to one another, but they know very well what each other is saying. “Do we want the ‘Nazi’ to become the next pope?” whispers one cardinal to another. “I’m not voting for so-and-so because he’s too traditional, we need someone more liberal to move the church forward,” another group of cardinals speak quietly in a corner.

The year is now 2013. Among the world’s Catholic representatives, two of them, from diverse backgrounds and with opposing ideologies, must meet and find common ground on which to work. Former Cardinal Aloisius Ratsinger, now Pope Benedict XVI (Anthony Hopkins) is from Bavaria, Germany. Former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, newly elected Pope Francis (Jonathan Pryce) is from Buenos Aires, Argentina. One loves to dance the tango, the other occasionally plays classical music on the piano. One drinks beer, the other Fanta. One eats takeaway and the other has meals prepared to his specifications. In 2005 they were part of the large group of cardinals selecting the new pope. In 2013 they are a group of two - both popes, planning the transition from one leader to the other.

In his own words, Pope Benedict XVI states that “lack of strength of body and mind due to advanced age, force me to resign.” He is the first pope to do so since 1415. Cardinal Bergoglio is elected the new pope and chooses his name in homage to St. Francis of Assisi. To have a smooth transition from one administration to another, the two men spend time together, travel a bit, review papal responsibilities and familiarize Pope Francis with Vatican City. Over time, the two men share greater understandings than those merely relating to church responsibilities.

 The transfer of leadership between these two men, who guide the billions of Catholics around the globe, is the subject of this film. The director, Fernando Meirelles, has blown away some of the smoke surrounding many secret, catholic traditions. He has opened many doors closed to the general public and given insight into the complex traditions of the papal selection process. He also adds a very personal insight into the men who wear the white papal robes and will guide the Catholic church into the 21st century.

Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis do eventually find a common ground on which to work; or in the case of this story, to dance.

The Two Popes is directed by Fernando Meirelles (Credits: City of God, The Constant Gardner) in a “should see” movie that runs 125 minutes.



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