It’s a fascinating and revealing tale of an unprecedented transfer of power, and of two very different men – who happen to live in the Vatican.

In February 2013, Pope Benedict XVI did what no pope had done in hundreds of years: He resigned, leaving the world with two living popes for the first time since 1415.

The Church’s choice of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, who would become Pope Francis, left even more unanswered questions. Pope Benedict had been a traditionalist, and Pope Francis was more progressive. Why did Benedict walk away at the height of his power, knowing his successor might be someone who might damage his legacy?

How did Francis – who used to ride the bus to work back in his native Buenos Aires – adjust to life as a leader to a billion followers? If, as the Church teaches, the pope is infallible, how can two living popes who disagree on almost everything both be right?

Acclaimed novelist and screenwriter Anthony McCarten captures the story behind the ascension of Pope Francis and the impact of Benedict’s decision in his new book, The Pope: Francis, Benedict and the Decision That Shook the World (Flatiron Books), launching this week. McCarten also has written a screenplay for a Netflix movie version starring Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce, to be released this year.

In McCarten’s hands, these two seemingly polar opposite men and their unique role in church history comes brilliantly to life.

From Benedict and Francis’s formative experiences in war-torn Germany and Argentina to the sexual abuse scandal that continues to rock the Church to its foundations to the intrigue and the occasional comedy of life in the Vatican, The Pope is a gripping story of two men of God making history.

Readers will see these two living popes as unexpected mirrors on our world, a world where interest in organized religion and faith is declining in some quarters, while elsewhere conservatism is on the rise. Having immersed himself in these men’s lives to write the screenplay for the upcoming motion picture “The Pope,” McCarten has written an inspring, honest, humane and revelatory book.

The Pope: Francis, Benedict and the Decision That Shook the World is available for purchase now.


Anthony McCarten is a New Zealand-born award-winning novelist, playwright and screenwriter. He’s written seven novels and 12 stage plays including “Ladies’ Night,” which won France’s Moliere Prize in 2001, and Death of a Superhero. His screenplays “The Theory of Everything” and “Darkest Hour” each garnered worldwide critical acclaim and were nominated for multiple awards, winning three Oscars, three Golden Globes, and five BAFTAs between them. His most recent screenplay, “The Pope,” is soon to be a major motion picture starring Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce.