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Culture Documentary

A close-up with the pope

Pope Francis (CTV, Célestes, Solares, Neue Road Movies, Decia, PTS ART’s Factory)


A close-up with the pope

In new documentary Pope Francis: A Man of His Word, the pontiff talks poverty, environment

Since taking his place at the Vatican five years ago, Pope Francis has labored to open wide the doors of the Roman Catholic Church. He’s reached out to homosexuals, divorced individuals, and non-Catholic faith groups. In Pope Francis: A Man of His Word, producers Wim Wenders and David Rosier, past Academy Award nominees, document this effort, assembling clips from the pope’s public speeches. Pope Francis also pontificates (fittingly) on important issues for the filmmakers’ camera. The pope’s (subtitled) words often convey love for the outcast and reveal political acumen, but at times might cause viewers confusion, even consternation.

The greatest concerns on the heart of Pope Francis (or Wenders and Rosier, at least) seem to be poverty and the environment.

“As long as the church is placing its hope on wealth, Jesus is not there,” Francis says. “Poverty is at the center of the gospel.” Well, Jesus, who fed the hungry and blessed the poor in spirit, is the center of the gospel, but the pope’s point is well-taken.

Figuring out the pope’s point can sometimes be challenging. He asks, “Who’s the poorest of the poor?” and responds, “Mother Earth.” Throughout the documentary, the pope laments the “culture of waste” that has produced a “sick and polluted earth.” OK. But he calls the Biblical story of Creation “obviously a mythical form of expression.”

The 90-minute film includes Pope Francis’ comments addressing immigration crises and the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal (briefly), though not abortion. Of “gay seekers,” he says, “who am I to judge?” The documentary won’t dissuade critics who charge the pope with relaxing the church’s moral standards. Supporters, however, can maintain he’s merely finding common ground with outsiders who might, thus, be drawn to the church.

Pope Francis does draw a crowd wherever he goes, but it’s disconcerting to watch many practically swoon at his touch. Still, the pope’s remarkable attentiveness to the sick and imprisoned, as segments show, is worthy of emulation.


  • Narissara
    Posted: Thu, 05/17/2018 10:24 pm

    What “word” has Pope Francis given?  The title of this documentary is ironic, given that much of what he says is so hard to pin down.  It often has more in common with humanism than biblical instruction.  

    The simplest explanation of the gospel is that Jesus paid a debt He didn’t owe because we humans owe a debt we cannot pay.  Concern for the sick and imprisoned (people), and even good stewardship of the earth may be examples of faith in action, but they aren’t what sets Christianity apart from other religions.  It’s bad enough that the pope’s emphasis on the environment occupies a place that rightfully belongs to the gospel.  But his personification of “Mother Earth” (see Janie Cheney’s recent piece, “Old legal person river”) and referring to “her” as the “poorest of the poor” undermine God’s sovereignty, whether he means to or not.  

  • Joe M
    Posted: Sat, 06/09/2018 10:03 am

    Not “A Man of God’s Word.” Who can’t miss the problem there?

  • Xion's picture
    Posted: Mon, 06/11/2018 12:19 pm

    I too wonder what the title means.  He certainly considers his own word to be more authoritative than God's Word.  For example, he declared the Lord's prayer to be incorrect.  

    He said, "One cannot take individual biblical quotes or passages and say each one is literally true."

    “It is possible to perceive the Sacred Scriptures as the word of God” only by looking at the Bible as a whole, “a totality in which the individual elements enlighten each other and open the way to understanding,” the Pope wrote in a message to the Pontifical Biblical Commission.

    “It is not possible to apply the criterion of inspiration or of absolute truth in a mechanical way, extrapolating a single phrase or expression,” the Pope wrote in a message released at the Vatican.