New Documentary Reveals the Real Pope

Friday, 18 Oct 2013 08:10 AM

By Edward Pentin

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Pope Francis has delighted millions across the globe since his election, at the same time perplexing many others.

Seven months into his pontificate, after confusing interviews, impulsive actions, and contradictory statements, he remains quite an enigma. But a new hour-long documentary, to be broadcast on the Fox Business Network this coming Sunday, aims to cut away some of that mystery by delving into the life history of the Pope — Jorge Mario Bergoglio.

"Francis: The Pope From the New World" features interviews from close friends, fellow priests, co-workers, his biographer, the poor of Buenos Aires, and cardinals and bishops. A trailer on the fascinating movie provides a snapshot of what will be covered.

Most of the interviews, and much of the film, was shot on location in Argentina. It contains extensive unseen footage of Bergoglio, from his early childhood and his tenure as head of Argentina’s Jesuits, to his time as rector of a seminary in Buenos Aires and his years of service as archbishop of Buenos Aires.

“What remain largely unknown to the public are many details of Pope Francis’ life, the work he has done, and the ways in which he has defended the voiceless and Catholic principles,” says Carl Anderson, one of the executive producers. “This documentary delves into those stories.”

Anderson heads the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternity and the main backer of the program.

Andrew Walther, another executive producer, told me: “We wanted to make a documentary that interviewed people he was close to in Argentina. We also took some of the extensive television coverage of his time there and felt it would be a very useful way to introduce people to the man who had become Francis.”

Bergoglio is revealed to be a sensitive pontiff. The film shows him to be a man of great humanity, though not an intellectual; someone passionate about social action, devoted to witnessing to Christ by going out to meet people, and always willing to help and serve others.

One interviewee after another defines him as a compassionate man with a special love for those marginalized in society. The program brings to light Bergoglio's frequent trips to hospitals, nursing homes, and slums when he was archbishop, striking up deep and lasting relationships with many of his flock.

“He knew how to help people and which doors to knock on to find them help,” said one friend, who mentions his unlimited capacity to forgive, his ability to be “real friends” with people and to stand with them in times of trouble. “I’d never define him as an intellectual,” said another. “He was a man of action, his priority was social action.”

He liked being with the poor, he said, “because the poor would offer him their hearts.”

Another person interviewed shared the interesting insight that Bergoglio had “intuitive intelligence” that “read people immediately.” He could “see through you; you couldn’t hide things,” the interviewee said, “but that would allow him to help you.” Bergoglio is perhaps more clever and more astute than some people take him for.

One notable inconsistency between Bergoglio as cardinal and Bergoglio as Pope: He has admitted to purposely shying away from discussing publicly the church’s teaching on abortion and same-sex marriage because, he says, the world already knows where the church stands on these issues.

His approach, and many of his other actions, are aimed at not scaring away those who might disagree with the church’s position. His critics, however, wonder if his absence on these critical issues is due to a desire to be loved.

And yet as archbishop, the documentary reveals him to have been courageous in standing up for truth, life, and marriage in the face of opposition from the state. So much so, that Argentine President Nestor Kirchner, and now his successor, his wife Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, regarded him as “the opposition." The program reveals she denied him an audience 14 times.

The documentary features a clip of Liliana Negra de Alonso, a Catholic senator closely allied with Bergoglio on these hot-button issues, paying an emotional tribute to the newly elected Pope.

So why the change of tone as Pope? The program doesn’t say, leaving the matter for another documentary on Francis as pontiff. 

The program nevertheless achieves what it sets out to do: help the viewer become better acquainted with Francis’s background and history. And in so doing, it succeeds in lifting some, though not all, of the Bergoglio enigma.

"Francis: The Pope From the New World" will air on the Fox Business Network on Sunday, Oct. 20, at 5 p.m. Eastern Time, 2 p.m. Pacific.

Edward Pentin began reporting on the Vatican as a correspondent with Vatican Radio in 2002. He has covered the Pope and the Holy See for a number of publications, including Newsweek and The Sunday Times. Read more reports from Edward Pentin — Click Here Now.

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