Last night at the little teatro in our Testaccio set up, we saw "Chiamatemi Francesco." The film is not exactly a great work of art, but good all the same, especially in the way it highlights Bergoglio's long engagement with poverty and injustice, or rather with people who are poor and victims of injustice. I realize our pope has lived through, also as provincial, the very difficult years of the right-wing dictatorship in Argentina, that he was often caught between the needs of the people on the one hand, and political and ecclesiastical powers on the other. No wonder he is so strong about ecclesiastics who need to get out of their comfortable little lives and get in touch with the poor. No wonder he insists so much that our contact with the poor will transform us.
Much of Bergoglio's complexity and life was missing from the film, partly also because we saw a version that was edited for the cinema hall (the TV version is 200 minutes, I am told). His deep faith and even his warm ways do not come through very well - though I am told by people who knew him that he rarely smiled as archbishop - except when he went among the people. The Salesian connection is totally absent, of course, and there is no mention at all of his study stint in Germany. But something of the man comes through. And thinking of our own involvement as theology students with the villages around Kristu Jyoti, and our reading of liberation theology, the issues that this film focusses on come alive. With a great desire to know more about how the young Jesuit faced the challenge of liberation theology, no doubt espoused by many of his own Jesuit confreres. And even, the thought crossed me, finding out how our own Egidio Viganò faced the challenge, as a young professor in Chile, and then as Formation Councillor and Rector Major. But above all, how we are to face the issue today. And there, the change is amazing: what was once periphery is now centre. Who would have imagined that 30 years ago.