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Cinema in Focus: ‘Pope Francis: A Man of His Word’

4 Stars — Inspiring

Arguably the most profound religious leader of the 21st century is a Jesuit priest who took the name of Francis when elected pope in 2013: Jorge Mario Bergoglio. As the first pope from the Americas and the first from the Southern Hemisphere, Pope Francis was born in Argentina eight days before Christmas in 1936. As the 266th pope of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis leads more than 1.3 billion Christians and has become a compelling ambassador for all of Christianity as he focuses his work on the ministry of reconciliation, compassion for the poor, the care of the environment and the ending of war with its military and civilian casualties and refugees.

As is often the case with a religious leader who has taken the revolutionary gospel of Jesus to a world that both longs for and yet rejects his message, the secular media spin the pope’s words and actions to fit their own agendas. The same is true of this orchestrated documentary, Pope Francis: A Man of His Word.

Written and narrated by Oscar-nominated German director Wim Wenders (Paris, Texas), his theme is a simple one: Just as St. Francis transformed the church by faithfulness to Christ as a living sermon in the early 13th century, so Pope Francis is doing the same now in these first years of the 21st century. Wenders’ comparison is compelling.

Beginning with Pope Francis’ work on climate change and weaving throughout his compassion for the poor, imprisoned and diseased, it is not difficult to see the transforming power of the simple Franciscan message of love. The difference now, perhaps, is that it has the powerful intellect of a Jesuit expressing it.

The power of the film rests in addressing the most difficult questions of Christian faith. These include the questions: Why do children suffer? What is our relationship to people of other faiths? What is our response to a same-sex attracted person of good will? Why are empowered women vital to our future? How do we respond to the evil of pedophilia in the priesthood? How do we address the unending wars and conflicts with their resultant refugees? What is our “culture of waste” and our “frenetic culture” doing to our souls? Why is the Christian faith so filled with “hope” in the midst of such a broken and hurting world?

The simple answers and guidance provided by this pastoral intellect is disarming and true. We encourage everyone to see this film and then take the message back to our homes, churches, schools, businesses and governments as we truly engage the problems of our world as a family. It is, as Pope Francis explains, our only course of action hopeful of producing actual solutions.


» Why do you think it is that Pope Francis was attacked when he said that he, obedient to the guidance of Jesus, does not judge a homosexual person of good will? Why are we afraid of nonjudgmental love?

» Pope Francis explains that the call to be one human family with a loving Father in which every person is given the necessities of life is an antidote to the economic and social systems that create worldwide poverty and its hundreds of millions of starving children. He calls us to not become insensitive to the suffering of others as though it is a normal part of life. How do you respond to such a call?

» On the worldwide day of prayer at Assisi, Italy, in honor of St. Francis, the pope joined leaders of various religions in prayer. Why do you think he leads Christians to do this? 

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is the retired pastor of Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara and lead superintendent of Free Methodist Church in Southern California. For more reviews, visit, or follow them on Twitter: @CinemaInFocus. The opinions expressed are their own.

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