‘The Two Popes’ Scribe Teases a Tale of Division in the Vatican


Call it a match made in heaven. Netflix’s latest high-profile film, The Two Popes, spotlights two influential 21st-century Catholic figures: Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who would later become Pope Francis, the current head of the church (Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce).

Set at the end of Benedict’s nearly eight-year tenure in 2013, the film imagines a meeting in which they clash over their views on Church doctrine.

“On the surface, [these] are two very different men,” screenwriter Anthony McCarten says. “Pope Benedict, a traditionalist, is somewhat resistant to change. Then you have Cardinal Bergoglio, a man of the people. He’s a change agent.”

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As Benedict and Bergoglio chat, the Vatican remains in turmoil over allegations of corruption and sexual abuse of children by priests. And all the while Benedict is contemplating his eventual resignation — which would make him the first pontiff to abandon his post since the 15th century.

McCarten says he based the fictional conversations on the wealth of information about their real-life beliefs. “It’s a debate between two positions we’re all familiar with — the traditionalist and the reformist — trying to find common ground,” he explains.

(Credit: Netflix)

He hopes that familiarity will strike a chord with audiences beyond those interested in the Catholic Church. “I think it speaks to the central debate that’s happening in society and politics right now: the desperate need for leaders to find some common ground.”

The Two Popes, Movie Premiere, Friday, Dec. 20, Netflix