A new Pope is to be elected and hordes of devout believers have flocked to the Vatican, waiting in anticipation to see the smoke from the chimney of the concave turn from black to white. Inside the Vatican, each of the candidates seem anxious over the impending vote. The responsibility of leading well over a billion followers has each of them petrified, a sentiment echoed by Moretti's decision to allow us to pry into each cardinal's prayers, where a cavalcade of apprehensive voices pleading to be spared.
Finally a Pope is elected, with the unanimous choice being Cardinal Melville (Michel Piccoli), a mild-mannered prelate who begrudgingly accepts the position. However, when the moment comes to announce his election and for Melville to give a blessing to the multinational congregation which has consumed the normally peaceful plaza of St. Paul's square, he bottles it, storming out and locking himself away. His unconventional actions and unwillingness to accept the role he's been chosen for lead to drastic measures within the concave and the hiring of one of Rome best psychologists (Moretti). His profession is one that conflicts with many beliefs of the Catholic Church and despite the limitation of topics he can discuss, he at once attempts to get to the root of why Melville has chosen this inopportune moment to question his faith.
Morretti's satirical eye is always in control and beneath the film's comedy facade there are numerous moments where he confronts religion head on. From observing how removed from society the church has become, to the farcical behaviour within the conclave, there are constant indicators that We Have a Pope is a film desperate to criticise this archaic institution. The most remarkable facet of the film is how sympathetically Moretti approaches his disdain for the Church. He obviously seems to admire those who commit themselves so emphatically towards their beliefs, indicating perhaps that he hides his own spiritual yearning – it's just apparent he doesn't see it in the highly regimented beliefs of Catholicism.