German filmmaker Wim Wenders is pictured in this undated photo with Pope Francis during the production of his documentary film, "Pope Francis -- A Man of His Word." The film was compiled from four long sit-down sessions with the pope and from clips of the pope at the Vatican and abroad. It is scheduled for release in theaters May 18. CNS photo/Vatican Media, handout

Film shows Pope Francis is true to the Word

  • May 18, 2018
The official trailer for Wim Wenders’ new film, 'Pope Francis - A Man of His Word'

All of us who read this newspaper know that in the beginning was the Word. We all know that the Word was with God and the Word was God. But do we take this description of basic reality seriously enough to concede that the Word has real, practical meaning? 

The Pope takes the Word seriously, which makes the title of a new documentary particularly apt: Pope Francis: Man of His Word. It opened May 18 in Canadian theatres.

This is not a behind-the-scenes documentary out to reveal the secret, inner workings of the papacy. For director Wim Wenders, there are no secret, inner workings worth knowing about. Instead, this is a road movie — the story of a man on the move because of a message he needs everyone to hear. Pope Francis is a man of his word because it is the Word he delivers.

The message is humanity in the flesh. Francis uses every occasion to tell us the business of human beings is to be human, because if we are to discover God we must rediscover our humanity. The Pope is trying to make us see the Incarnation — the Word made flesh — has implications for how we live. 

Wenders presents Pope Francis as plainly, simply and frankly as possible for 96 minutes. If we’ve been paying attention over the last five years we’ve heard it all before. Wenders gives us that moment early on in the papal plane when Pope Francis answers a question about the possibility of a “gay lobby” in the Vatican. That’s the “who am I to judge” moment.

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this in a beautiful way, saying ... ‘No one should marginalize these people for this, they must be integrated into society.’ The problem is not having this tendency, no, we must be brothers and sisters to one another.”

There’s also the “this economy kills” moment. 

“‘No to an economy of exclusion and inequality.’ This economy kills,” Francis thunders as the camera shows us poor people rushing along beside the popemobile.

The Pope is not fooling around. He calls Christianity a “revolutionary road.” 

From the island of Lampedusa to Rio’s Verginha slum to his arrival in the Philippines among people still recovering from the most powerful typhoon ever recorded, Wenders constantly shows the Pope in dialogue with poor people.

“Poverty is central to evangelization,” he tells the camera.

The Pope is clear about the role of dialogue. We see him describe an age and a society that has succumbed to deafness, in which we cannot hear each other because we do not listen. 

The tools of Pope Francis’ revolution are tenderness, kinship and family. In the confessional, Pope Francis explains, he often asks parents whether they play with their children. If we can’t respond with natural, ordinary humanity to our children then the Kingdom is far, far away.

Wenders presents us with a challenge. Can we sit and hear what this Pope is saying for 96 minutes without trying to wriggle off the hook? Can we at least acknowledge that the world is in danger because we have sometimes banished our  own humanity? 

See this movie. It will move you.

Q&A: Wim Wender's unexpected film on the Pope

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