“Never think that your struggles down here are completely useless. A seed of the absolute pulses within us. And above all, hold on to your dreams. Do not be afraid to dream. Dream of a world that cannot be seen yet but which will certainly come.”
— Pope Francis

In the first nine years of his pontificate, Pope Francis made 37 trips to 53 countries. For In Viaggio, which translates in Italian to En Route, director Gianfranco Rosi has pulled together archival footage of the Pope’s visits, his speeches, and his interactions with people. He has added more recent footage he shot in Canada and Malta.

We see Pope Francis traveling in an open car down major thoroughfares lined with crowds and speaking at large plazas. We are present as he meets with world leaders, then notice how he offers the same kind of attention to individual believers who come to a house and kiss his ring and have their babies blessed.

Director Gianfranco Rosi observed: “For Francis, travel is an intellectual and spiritual practice. . . . Travel is where Francis the man becomes visible. Direct engagement with the people is clearly extremely important to him. You could say that his pontificate is a reverse pilgrimage, so rather than followers streaming from remote places to the Vatican, the pope himself travels to the people, meets them where they live and learns firsthand about their lives and woes.”

Pope Francis

The trips also give the Pope opportunities to express his concerns about the state of the world. He goes to an ocean-side community to talk about the tragic loss of migrants at sea. He laments the suffering of refugees and children taken for child trafficking. On a more positive note, he discusses the importance of international collaboration with astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

At a prison in Mexico, he calls for a new approach:

“We have already wasted many decades thinking and believing everything would be solved by isolating, separating, incarcerating. . . . The problem of security is not resolved only by incarcerating. This is an appeal to step in and deal with the structural and cultural causes of this insecurity that impacts society as a whole.”

In the United Arab Emirates, he says that he has come as “a believer thirsty for peace, as a brother seeking peace with his brothers, to want peace, to promote peace, to be instruments of peace, that’s what we’re here for.” He explains:

“The arms race, the extension of zones of influence, aggressive policies to the detriment of others, will never lead to stability. War creates only misery, weapons nothing other than death. Their nefarious consequences are before our eyes. I think of Yemen, of Syria, of Iraq, of Libya. We must work hard against the logic of armed power, against the monetization of relationships, the arming of borders, the raising of walls, the gagging of the poor. There is no alternative. Either we build the future together or there won’t be a future.”

There are moments of striking honesty and humility. He apologizes for the Vatican’s slow response to the scandal of priests abusing children. In Canada he apologizes to a gathering of First Nation leaders on behalf of the church:

“I ask forgiveness for the ways in which unfortunately many Christians upheld the colonial mentality of the powers that oppressed indigenous peoples. I am aggrieved. I ask forgiveness, above all, for the way many members of the Church and the religious communities cooperated, also through indifference, with those projects of cultural destruction and forced assimilation of the governments of the time that culminated in the residential school system.”

This documentary gives us an up-close and personal portrait of a true servant of God. In the final scene, to us the most moving of the entire film, he appeals to God for help in his mission.

“Forgive us for war, O Lord.
We implore You,
Stop the hand of Cain,
Illuminate our consciences.
May our will not be done,
do not abandon us to our deeds.
And when you have stopped
The hand of Cain,
care for him too,
for our brother.
Stop us, Lord.
Stop us.”