Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, left, and TV journalists Anderson Cooper, centre, and Scott Pelley are among those commenting on Pope Francis in Salt + Light’s The Francis Effect. Register file photo.

Everyone has something to say about this Pope

By 
  • March 13, 2014

Making a documentary about Pope Francis is like making a motion picture about a moving target. Things are changing all around this Pope.

“There’s a prophetic element to all of this. Do you understand Church history enough, are you paying attention enough to the signs of the times, to understand what he’s about, to understand this moment in history,” said Salt + Light producer and writer Sebastian Gomes.

Gomes is spending his Lent drowning in hours of video of people talking about Pope Francis. His deadline is Holy Thursday, April 17, when Salt + Light TV will premiere his documentary The Francis Effect. But as the final edit comes together for the 50- or 60-minute feature, things are still moving and Francis is still having an extraordinary effect.

“People will say ‘It’s just a change in style; it’s not a change in substance.’ And they end up downplaying the importance of the effect he’s having,” Gomes told The Catholic Register.

“I think it’s extremely substantial. I think it will have long-term implications. I think there’s an historical context to this, especially the 1960s and the Second Vatican Council. I see a strong connection between Francis and that council. And there are things he’s doing that can’t be undone.”

From theologians to cardinals to some of television’s biggest on-air personalities, Salt + Light found itself swimming in a sea of enthusiastic opinion about Pope Francis from the moment the Canadian Catholic network conceived of the project.

CNN anchor Anderson Cooper told Gomes, “Francis has connected people back to the Church in remarkable ways.”

CBS anchor and 60 Minutes reporter Scott Pelley, a practising Methodist, couldn’t say enough about the Pope.

“The Pope is throwing the doors to St. Peter’s open, and the sunshine is coming in, and the wind is blowing through, and the Pope is listening to what everybody has to say. It’s about dialogue,” he said.

Opinions from within the Church are no less enthusiastic.

“I think it’s too little to say it’s just a change in style, because I think he’s substantially changing the way the papacy is experienced in the world,” said Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput.

For a little-known Canadian Catholic television service, it’s not always easy getting the great and good of the world to sit down for an interview. But if the topic is Pope Francis, cardinals, famous journalists, everybody wants to talk.

“The doors were just open for us,” said Gomes. “Because everbody wants to talk about him and everybody has an opinion about him. The vast majority of people are very, very high on him and what he is doing.”

Though The Francis Effect will premiere on a network that overwhelmingly appeals to church- going Catholics, Salt + Light expects this documentary will attract interest from non-Catholic viewers and non-Catholic broadcasters.

“This project, more than any other project we’ve done at Salt + Light, has the potential to reach beyond the choir. So much of the stuff we do is preaching to the choir. We’re talking to the people in the pews. They are the saints,” Gomes said.

“The Church doesn’t exist to do that. That’s not what its mandate is and it never has been. Francis is reminding us of this by going to the periphery, reaching out to people on the margins.”

Gomes expects The Francis Effect DVDs will go on sale soon after the April 17 broadcast date.

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