19 September 2019, The Tablet

The secret life of Rome

TV Review

The secret life of Rome

Silvia Sacco’s revealing two-part documentary approaches those at the heart of Francis’ papacy


A warm and insightful documentary exploring life behind closed doors at the Holy See

Silvia Sacco’s fascinating and inspiring two-part documentary, Inside the Vatican – the first episode was on BBC2 this week, and the second follows on Friday – is sensitive without soft-soaping. In interviews with some of the 2,600 people who keep the Papal State afloat, Sacco gives her subjects proper listening space: they reflect on not only the practicalities of their work, but how that work has subtly changed its emphasis under the pontificate of Pope Francis. The work may in many regards be humdrum (maintenance, administration, security), but Vatican employees bring something particular to their jobs: they regard what they do as a vocation, not just a career. There aren’t many offices, for example, where everyone stops work once a day to say the Angelus. As Anne-Julie Kerhuel, who is an adviser for the Holy See’s mission to the United Nations, put it: “There is a particular culture here”; just outside the door to the main office building, Francis has placed an icon of the silent Virgin, her finger to her lips, as a reminder not to give in to gossip. The Pope, reflected Kerhuel, “likes to use images”.

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