Does ‘The Pope: Answers’ Satisfy Curiosity? [REVIEW]

“The Pope: Answers” released April 5 to little fanfare, despite its presentation as an unfiltered conversation between Pope Francis and 10 Generation Z individuals from all walks of life. The Spanish-language documentary focuses entirely on the conversation between Pope Francis and his audience of young people who don’t shy away from difficult questions.

Whether or not the answers provided by Pope Francis are satisfactory is up to the viewer. The shining stars of the documentary are its cast of young people who come from a variety of different faith backgrounds and nations around the world. Upon making their way to Vatican City, they congregate in a meeting room and anxiously await the arrival of Pope Francis.

The atmosphere for the first few minutes of “The Pope: Answers” is tense, as Pope Francis’ audience is unsure of what tone to take. After the atmosphere thaws, the beginning of the documentary is a series of rapid-fire questions about the Pope’s daily life: whether or not he has a salary, owns a phone or uses social media.

Once the Gen Zers feel more comfortable with Pope Francis, they begin to ask their prepared questions that span a range of hard-hitting topics such as the Catholic Church’s role in colonization and institutional racism, abortion access, acceptance of LGBTQ+ people in the Church and the continuing shadow of sexual abuse by authority figures over the Catholic Church.

High-tension moments in the documentary are not created by dialogue between Pope Francis and Gen Zers, but instead by conversations amongst the young people. For example, Milagros and María are both devout Catholics in their early twenties. They butt heads during the documentary because Milagros is an advocate for abortion access and María is not. As the moment simmers down, Pope Francis reenters the conversation to provide an opinion from the perspective of the institutional Church. He ultimately sides with María’s interpretation of the Catholic faith that bars abortion.

In the conversation surrounding abortion access and other issues in “The Pope: Answers,” it is unlikely that viewers will come away having learned something new as with a traditional documentary. Instead, it presents a perspective from the Vatican in an easily-digestible package available on Hulu.

The one-and-a-half hour runtime is not entirely justified by the topics covered in the documentary; while they may seem to cover a wide variety of issues on paper, many questions posed to the Pope are answered in a swift and diplomatic fashion before moving on to the next topic.

The lack of buzz around “The Pope: Answers” might be due to the lack of clarity surrounding its intended audience. The documentary casts a wide net with the diversity of young people represented, but Gen Z is unlikely to tune into a film that presents such sanitized answers from the Catholic Church in response to tough questions. Reception is mixed amongst Catholic news outlets, with progressives and moderates stating that the documentary clarifies misconceptions about the Catholic Church and conservatives stating that Pope Francis says little to nothing at all about actual Catholic doctrine.

“The Pope: Answers” is an interesting concept that will hopefully be used more often as it allows the public to get to know Pope Francis better. As a standalone documentary, it suffers from an ambling runtime and an uncertainty as to who its audience is. “The Pope: Answers” is a public step for the Pope to become a more personable figure, but it will not likely satisfy an audience curious about the Catholic Church.