Thanks to changes in the way entertainment can be readily accessible at home through a medium like Netflix, I can now indulge in watching up to date movies in my living room.

Recently, I particularly enjoyed 'The Two Popes', which has not only received critical acclaim, but has been nominated for a number of Oscars and Golden Globes.

Popes have never retired before now, and ostensibly the story of the two men who became living Popes for the first time in several centuries, it is a charming and very enjoyable film.

It’s beautifully filmed and brought back memories for me of a short break we had in Rome, including an awe-inspiring day-long visit to the pomp and culture-laden Vatican. Wonderful it was.

The acting in the film is phenomenal, with Anthony Hopkins playing Pope Benedict XVI and Jonathan Pryce as Pope Francis. The critics, quite rightly, describe it as a “buddy movie” with the two men bonding over beer and pizza; they watch the 2014 football World Cup final between their respective countries Germany and Argentina as well as having cosy chats together.

Church experts, however, caution that these things never actually happened. But the story is an interesting one of the differences in personality and theology of the two men, labelled that of the traditionalist versus the liberal moderniser.

I’d recommend you watch the movie; but watch it as a film for its stunning photography, production, acting and slow-moving storyline. At the end of the day it should be viewed as a piece of fiction, albeit “based on true events”. Like any piece of art such as this, though, it should provoke thoughts around issues which underline it.

In my case, that means the relevance of the institutions of church and state in the 21st century. How does any church move on and reform for the modern day without abandoning the long-held beliefs and principles which have served their congregations well for many generations?

The perception of the two men appears to suggest that Benedict is a cold authoritarian German, while Francis is the more humble, grandfatherly Latin American figure who espouses the trappings of office. Such perception is always facile and unfair, and anyone watching the film may concentrate more on the issues facing the church in society.

All churches of various Christian denominations are facing challenges, even a crisis, in the modern world in which the very tenets of their beliefs are undermined by an increasingly aggressive undermining of the very existence of a God.

This week of prayer for Christian unity, the film’s examination of the ideological difference within the Catholic Church is perhaps a timely reminder of how churches could all examine the beliefs and methods of worship of others while reflecting on our own.

The issues facing the Church cross boundaries of denomination. Abortion, for example, is a really thorny one for many people in Ireland, north and south and the changes in the law in Northern Ireland caused real difficulty for traditional Catholics in their choice of Nationalist parties at the polls.

Similarly, the legislation of same sex marriage was widely welcomed by society at large but again it manifested a division within churches.

One Protestant pastor, Steve Ames, of the Harbour Faith Community in Carrickfergus, campaigned for same sex marriage and criticised the legislation for denying same sex couples the right to a religious ceremony. It’s fair to say that the vast majority of churches are at variance with his views and Northern Ireland’s church leaders are not open to a debate about welcoming LGBT members.

Indeed, considering the widespread acceptance in society of gay relationships, traditional Christians have a real difficulty in listening to those gay people within the church who want to open up a dialogue about it.

Also, it may even seem remarkable that in 2019, all churches have members who are still wary of the role of women as deacons and clergy.

And there’s a debate about whether the church should allow divorced and remarried Catholics take the sacrament of Communion.

As regards the Catholic church, and the two Popes, there has been some difference of opinion between the two men over allowing priests to marry in heterosexual relationships.

Recently, a Synod looked at the situation in the Amazon region where there is often no Mass held because of a shortage of priests in remote areas. The possibility of allowing non-celibate priests is being considered.

Necessity may be the mother of invention is this instance; and it should be said that in England, for example, a few Catholic priests are living with their wife and children… a result of Benedict’s ruling some years ago that allowed converted Anglicans into “full communion”.

Traditionalists see all this change as the “thin end of the wedge” and, indeed, traditional Catholics often point to the experience of Protestant churches who were, in their opinion, too liberal and have seen their real faith values diluted.

One Catholic commentator summed up the dilemma by saying: “The black and white certainties of my Catholic upbringing now seem less monochrome and more grey.”

There is no doubt that a more secular society and changing social values provide a challenging, changing environment for people of faith. Things that in the past were considered taboo are now fully accepted. And it is surely true that the church, whatever church, should remain relevant to everyday living.

The irony, of course, is that people want certainty and often past behaviours and rules provide that certainty. In a changing and turbulent world, where evil seems to prosper, truth is a perishable commodity and greed and selfishness prevail, young people in particular often find comfort in clinging to fundamental beliefs.

Indeed, even outside the church in the secular world, people revert to hitting back at liberalism when it challenges their instinct. Lawrence Fox, the actor, sharply divided opinion after his BBC Question Time appearance, with his criticism of “woke culture”. Supposedly a challenge to social injustice and racial prejudice, woke people are now being lambasted as the very opposite of the liberal attitude they propose to represent.

But as regards the church, the supposed ideological difference between Pope Francis and the Pope Emeritus, Benedict is something of a microcosm representing the wider debate over whether we stick rigidly to old doctrines or move with the times.

For my part, I think we shouldn’t get too fixated on the political power struggles within big institutions of church, but focus more on the personal relationship that Christians have with their Saviour, whose grace of forgiveness is “the same yesterday, today and forever". Love is at the very heart of Christianity, love for all people.

And in living out our faith, we should follow the teachings of Jesus with compassion, by being humble and gracious, by challenging those in power who mistreat the poor. And by pointing the way to Christ.

Madeleine L’Engle said: “We do not draw people to Christ by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.”

I may well have ruined the film 'The Two Popes' for you with all this heavy stuff!

Don’t let it; it’s a great film in its own right; watch it, and maybe after you’ve enjoyed it, see if it provokes any of the thoughts I had afterwards.