In a new documentary, Pope Francis has slammed the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant children from families, calling it “cruelty of the highest form”.

Separating families “goes against natural rights”, “something a Christian cannot do”

“It’s cruelty, and separating kids from parents goes against natural rights… It’s something a Christian cannot do”, the pontiff says of the US government’s migrant family separation policy in the new film, Francesco, which had its premiere in Rome today.

In the documentary, the pontiff also endorses same-gender civil unions, insisting that “Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family… They’re children of God and have a right to a family”.

“Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable because of it [sexual orientation]… What we have to create is a civil union law… That way [gay couples] are legally covered”, the Pope explains.

The documentary on the Pope, by director Evgeny Afineevsky, interweaves voices and stories from past and present.

It includes exclusive interviews with Pope Francis himself, with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, with members of the Pope’s family and many others.

In the film, Afineevsky highlights the challenges of our time, the urgencies that need responses and the mission of the Church in looking to those who suffer injustices.

Kinéo Prize winner

The film premiered on Wednesday afternoon at the Rome Film Festival in the Special Events Section. On Thursday, in the Vatican Gardens, it will receive the 18th Kinéo Prize.

The “Kinéo Movie for Humanity Award” is awarded to those who promote social and humanitarian themes. This year, it will be personally awarded by Rosetta Sannelli, the creator of the award, who underlined Francesco‘s historic value.

“Every one of Pope Francis’ journeys to various parts of the world is documented in Afineevsky’s work through images and news footage, and reveals an authentic glimpse into the events of our time”, Sannelli said.

The Pope and the world today

Evgeny Afineevsky finished shooting Francesco in June, in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.

The filmmaker uses hugely impactful images to recount various themes such as the pandemic, racism and sexual abuse.

The documentary deals with issues such as the wars in Syria and Ukraine as well as with the persecution of Rohingya Muslims, and according to producers Pope Francis in the film answers questions “with wisdom and generosity”, sharing “moving examples of his life lessons” and relaunching ideals that “can help us build a bridge to a better future and grow as a global community”.

The premiere of Francesco in the United States is scheduled for October 25 at the Savannah Film Festival. The film is produced in part with the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television.

Director Evgeny Afineevsky was nominated for an Oscar and Emmy in 2016 for his film Winter on Fire and in 2018 received 3 Emmy nominations for Cries from Syria.

(With reporting by Vatican News)

More news on Novena on Pope Francis:

21/10: General Audience: Pope warns against prayer for show, “everyday atheism” of indifference to poor

Francis clamours: “We need peace! More peace! Enough of swords, weapons, violence and war!”

Pope pleads for peace: “Love alone extinguishes hatred, love alone triumphs over injustice, love alone makes room for others”

Pope persists in call to global solidarity: “We are either all saved together or no one is saved”


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.