Really? The same pair of shoes? Twenty years? It reminds me of the man who had the same broom for twenty-five years—having, in that time, fitted it with seventeen new heads and fourteen new handles. And the “girlfriend”? That would be Amalia Damonte, to whom Bergoglio sent a “love letter” when they were both twelve, telling her that if she didn’t marry him, he would become a priest. Her parents intervened to put an end to their “relationship.”
In its core scenarios, the movie is almost entirely fictional. Bergoglio did not in 2012 fly to Italy to meet with Pope Benedict at Castel Gandolfo to ask for permission to retire. The two men did not spend days together getting to know each other. Pope Benedict did not give Cardinal Bergoglio advance knowledge of his intention to resign. He did not tell him that he regarded himself as no longer fit to be pope. He did not reveal that he had decided Bergoglio would be the perfect choice to replace him.
Aside from its fictions, the film refers to real events out of their chronological sequence: Things that occurred after the election of Pope Francis are depicted as having occurred beforehand. The script seeks to diminish Pope Benedict by elevating his successor even before he succeeds him.
“You’re very popular,” says Ratzinger, as though envious.
“I just try to be myself,” replies Bergoglio modestly.
“Whenever I try to be myself, people don’t seem to like me very much,” the pope responds.
This exchange is rendered nonsensical by the facts. Benedict’s public audiences in St. Peter’s Square were consistently higher than those of Pope Francis, whose numbers decrease all the time. “This popularity of yours, is there a trick to it?,” Benedict asks, seemingly fixated on wishing he were Bergoglio. The problem is that, before he became pope, Bergoglio was barely known in the world, never mind popular. He was not even unambiguously loved in Argentina.
In another scene, late in the evening, Pope Benedict sits at his piano trying to think of something appropriate to play for his guest. Suddenly he asks: “Do you know the Beatles?”
“Yes, I know who they are,” Bergoglio responds. “Eleanor Rigby?”
“Who?” Pope Benedict asks, “I don’t know her.”
This is harmless in its way. But for what it is worth (not much), it is untrue that Pope Benedict is ignorant of pop music, as intimated on several occasions by the script. In fact, he knows a great deal about the music, possibly from hearing it for many years blaring in every café in Rome. He just doesn’t like it. It concerned him that, as he said in his address to the International Church Music Congress in Rome in November 1985, such music “lowers the barriers of individuality and of personality,” “repealing the limits of the everyday,” creating the illusion of “liberation from the ego.” These are not the words of a man who has never heard of ABBA, who does not “know” Eleanor Rigby.