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Royalty and religion rate highly

Opinion

Over the Christmas break I watched two excellent Netflix programs, one a movie about the papacy and the others a series about Queen Elizabeth and her family.

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Both are extremely well done – slick productions with brilliant acting and beautiful vision – and both are highly topical due to recent developments.
The Two Popes cleverly intertwines a fictional story with true events to highlight the different approaches of the two men to the papacy.
Many Catholics would be aware of these differences, and the problems that having an emeritus pope can create, but for others the movie is a reminder of what a momentous decision it was for Pope Benedict to resign.
Similarly, as Harry and Meghan walk away from their royal duties and, more to the point, the paparazzi, The Crown provides a fascinating glimpse of what it’s like to be part of the Royal Family.
The Crown delves into the much-publicised private lives of the Queen’s family, from the abdication of her uncle, her husband’s early struggles with his role, to the exploits of Princess Margaret and Prince Charles’ relationship with Camilla Parker-Bowles. While based on fact, there is a fair degree of creative licence on the part of the scriptwriters but to what degree we’ll never know.
What interests me most is the historical backdrop of each episode and the political intrigues of the day as revealed through the various Prime Ministers’ relationship with the Queen.
The Two Popes has been criticised for being fanciful but I loved the banter between the two men, the admission of their failings and the friendship that develops between them.
Most of all, I loved the fact that I could watch a movie about the Catholic Church with my family and they weren’t bored or disillusioned. It even provided a talking point at Christmas parties, with people not normally interested in matters of faith suddenly keen to chat about the Church.
The Two Popes may not be totally accurate in its representation of either Francis (Jonathon Pryce) or Benedict (Anthony Hopkins), but it depicts them as being ordinary human beings in extraordinary positions of power.
Similarly, The Crown gives us an understanding of the sacrifices Queen Elizabeth, and her family, have had to make throughout her very long reign, and how impossible it has been for them to live normal lives.
I couldn’t help but wonder what was going on behind closed doors during the recent controversy with Meghan and Harry. How to ensure the monarch is perceived as strong but without making it look like the Queen has no compassion – a constant theme of The Crown – is a challenge for even the best spin doctor.
There have been enough cracks in Windsor castle over the years for the fortress mentality to be the automatic reaction but the so-called ‘compromise’ will hopefully prove to be a more sensible outcome.
For the Church, the cracks are more like chasms as it struggles to regain credibility after the child sexual abuse crisis and grapples with polarising issues such as celibacy.
In both cases, the leaders of these age-old institutions will need all the courage and determination they can muster to ensure they provide stability while also showing a willingness to move with the times.
Unlike much of the hostile and superficial media coverage, The Two Popes and The Crown are helpful because they give the public a rare chance to gain a deeper understanding of some of the complexities at play.
And besides, they make for damn good entertainment.

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