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The Two Popes

Posted December. 25, 2019 07:30,   

Updated December. 25, 2019 07:30


There are these two people who are on the opposite side of each other in almost everything. One likes to eat alone while the other likes to have company. One likes piano pieces written by Bedrich Smetana while the other loves ABBA’s songs. These may just trivial differences in taste, but they also differ in their thoughts and understanding. One is a conservative who considers principles as important while the other is a progressive who calls for change. The two criticize each other for being populistic or self-righteous. The film “The Two Popes” portrays these drastically different people: Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.

What kind of a leader would the world need more? Pope Benedict XVI, who was elected pope in 2005, thought that his successor would have to be someone that could more flexibly respond to changes than him. Thus, before resigning in 2013, Pope Benedict XVI opened a path for Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who later became Pope Francis, to lead the Catholic Church. Though Benedict’s tenure had been tainted by accusations that he was involved in the Vatican related scandal, his determination was what enabled Pope Francis to become the head of the Catholic Church.

However, Pope Francis repeatedly rejected Benedict’s offer saying he does not deserve the job. He particularly expressed his sense of guilt that he could not stand against the Argentine military dictatorship and prevent the sacrifice of innocent lives. Yet, Benedict believed that such feeling of guilt and repentance would make him a more humble, inclusive pope. As a cardinal says in the film, someone who doesn’t want to be a leader may be the person who should be a leader. Benedict handed over the authority to someone who was exactly opposite of him in every aspect, something unthinkable in the secular world of politics. This was possible thanks to his belief in Jesus, who also stressed a need for change. Merry Christmas.

Eun-Taek Lee nabi@donga.com