01x03 - Episode 03

All of us cardinals were there, at the Conclave.

We were on the fourth ballot, the famous total stalemate.

I looked at Cardinal Dussolier, a longshot for the Papacy, we've known each other since we were kids, We've shared every suffering imaginable.

I looked at tall, stoop-shouldered Cardinal Spencer, my mentor, the most eligible of all the candidates, looking so wise.

I've always been suspicious of wisdom.

I'm convinced he was already drafting his first papal address in his head, maybe even composing his first encyclical.

I looked and looked at them.

And then I prayed to God.

You did well to pray.

At any rate, it is the Holy Spirit who must illumine...

This was the prayer I muttered between my teeth: Lord, I don't care with what means, licit or illicit, they're all fine, I don't care about the Holy Spirit, whether He illumines me or not, I don't care about anything, I don't care about your opinions, or if I'm up to the task, or if I'm not an outsider or a longshot, I don't care if you think I'm weak, or a scoundrel, I don't care about loving my neighbor as myself, I will never love my neighbor as myself, I only care about one thing, Lord, that I, not the others, can be useful to You.

I prayed some more, harder this time.

I was praying so hard I nearly sh1t my pants.

I had to glue my ass to my chair so as not to make a mess, I stared, straight to Dussolier and I said: God, not him, me.

I looked at Spencer and I said: God, not him, me.

I must have chanted those words a thousand times before they opened the voting again, like a mantra: not him, me, not him, me, not him, me, not him, me.

And then, toward the end: not them, me.

And now I'm the Pope.

Not them.

Me.

Sister Mary would call it a miracle.

Others would call it the answer to a prayer.

But I don't know what to call it.

They all went white when they heard the name I'd chosen, and I reveled in their fear.

They were beginning to realize who I am, because that is the enormous error they committed: they chose a pope they didn't know.

And today they began to understand.

That is their tremendous sin: they chose a Pope they presumed they knew.

I spoke my new name, Pius XIII, and they forgot to thank God because they thought that God had failed to illumine them.

I forgot to thank God, because I didn't think God had illumined them either.

I love myself more than my neighbor, more than God, I believe only in myself, I am the lord omnipotent: Lenny, you have illumined yourself! f*ck!

We had a deal, Angelo!

Me pope, you reconfirmed the Secretary of State.

The perfect balance.

But then you broke our agreement.

You pulled that kid out of the hat.

My own student.

You really are a sh1t!

You won't be able to manage him, you know.

You must have learned that by now, after that homily he gave.

How stupid can you be!

You were so fearful of my extremis, that you forgot the most obvious truth: the young are always more extreme than the old.

But there is another truth, Michael.

What other truth?

That you were afraid old Spencer would be beyond your control?

Well, now you got yourself a young Spencer.

The Church is gonna be in his clutches for a long time.

And it's not even a given that you'll be reconfirmed.

I don't understand, what are you getting out of all this?

You don't understand because you don't allow me to tell you the truth.

And what truth would that be?

I didn't plot against you.

I didn't direct my men to vote for Belardo.

Sure, I let people believe that was the case, so as to maintain my power.

But that's not how it went.

At a certain point, without anyone giving instructions, Belardo started winning votes.

That is the unspeakable truth, Michael.

Don't f*ck with me, Angelo!

What do you expect me to believe?

That what we witnessed in there...

...was the breath of the Holy Spirit.

I think so, Michael, I really do.

I believe the Holy Spirit breathed.

You're out of your mind.

Michael, the Holy Spirit breathed.

Forgive me, Lord, for I have been unforgiveable.

It's not true that I illumine myself. You illumine me.

It's not true that I feel omnipotent.

You are the Lord Omnipotent.

It's not true that I don't care about anything.

The only thing I care about is You.

You alone.

And if I've forgotten to thank You, I thank You now.

And if I've sinned by presumption, I ask Your forgiveness now.

And if I've tricked that poor Don Tommaso, I ask Your forgiveness now.

And if I have frightened people, I ask Your forgiveness now.

And if I have wished Spencer and Dussolier harm, I ask You send harm my way as well.

And if I have abused my power, I ask You to take it from me now.

Forgive me, Lord, illumine me.

Give me the words to say to the cardinals.

My address regards You.

My words are Your words.

I keep praying for You to make something happen, so why this awful, crawling feeling that nothing ever does?

I know, dictate to me Lord.

Yes, dictate to me.

I've always been good at taking notes, You know that.

You know that.

Your Excellency, can I race my toy cars on the carpet?

"Excellency" you can say to your mom!

You have to call me: Eminence.

Eminence, so can I...

Do you know how much that carpet costs?

Twice the GDP of your entire Country.

Cane sugar for me, please.

You have to buy your own cane sugar, Aguirre, because frankly the stuff makes me want to puke.

It's been four hundred years since a Pope took such a hostile stance toward the faithful.

In any case, I have to talk with the Pope soon.

I'll make a point of divining his intentions.

"Divining his intentions?"

Voiello, you'd said: I report to you, the Pope reports to me.

His speech was just one false step.

We have a young Pope.

Have you been reading the paper?!

They're all asking, "what is the Cardinal Secretary of State doing?"

I know what to do.

What we need... is a dramatic gesture..

Voiello, you need to hand in your resignation today.

Excellent!

That's what you'll do, Voiello.

It's a genuine miracle that this assembly generated an idea.

A first-rate idea.

I'm willing to bet, that in the aftermath of my homily, you're ready to hand in your resignation.

I wouldn't even think of it, Holy Father.

Were you hurt not to hear the homily you drafted for me?

Frustration is an emotion that does not appertain to the Secretary of State.

Did you like my homily?

That's not the point.

Then let's hear the point.

The point is that the faithful were, to put it euphemistically, surprised.

More than surprised, they were overwhelmed.

God overwhelms.

God frightens.

Priorities?

Your speech to our brother cardinals.

In due time. Anything else?

The Kurtwell case, Holy Father.

The big hot potato.

Exactly, Holy Father.

Your predecessor didn't have time to put someone in charge of this delicate matter.

But I will. In due time.

With all due respect, Holy Father, the time is "now".

The charges of the child-abuse are detailed and embarrassing and Kurtwell's attitude is, to say the least, defiant and insolent.

Anything else?

Holy Father, it's my duty to inform you that the press and the TV news, after attacking us over your inaugural speech, have now begun a new phase in which they ask us to clarify the meaning of your statements.

Typical plebeian reaction: to hate when you do not understand.

How are we going to put over the idea that the world press corps has difficulty understanding the basic concepts?

A potential compromise might be to call a press conference to explain things.

I don't appear, I don't explain.

Not you, Holy Father.

I could go myself to give an interview.

We no longer give interviews, Your Eminence.

The only interviews we give are to God.

Too bad he hasn't requested one yet, it would be quite the scoop.

Holy Father, the press is begging for a photo of you.

No.

Holy Father, it's Cardinal Ozolins.

Let him in. I've been expecting him.

You wished to see me, Your Holiness?

Yes, and for the last time, Ozolins.

Come with me.

Now... close your eyes and choose your new destination.

What have I done wrong, Holy Father?

Nothing.

It's just that your role under the previous three Popes was to organize their travels.

A role which I intend to radically rescale, because this Pope won't be wasting time roaming the world.

As a result, I no longer need you.

It would be beneath your stature as a cardinal to accept a diminished role so...

Then why do I get the impression that you're out to diminish me even further?

Because it's true!

Now close your eyes and plant a finger on the globe.

Close your eyes.

Ketchikan, Alaska!

Actually, Holy Father, San Francisco is what turned up.

You're not right there, Ozolins.

Ketchikan, Alaska.

It's a lovely place, I've been there..

A nice little town, population 8,000.

You'll like it.

Is it cold there?

Oh, yeah, it's freezing.

But don't forget Nobel laureate Joseph Brodsky's wonderful words: "Beauty at low temperatures is beauty".

Holy Father, a little gift for you.

Blessed Father, this is a very useful object, but only if you open it.

You see?

It can be perfectly useful even when it's closed.

Your Holiness, will you allow me, given my venerable age, a vaguely critical observation?

Yes, I allow you.

To expect a devoted and adoring crowd to ponder the enigma of God's existence amounts to asking an obsolete question.

The question now is not whether God exists, but rather, why do we depend on God?

You surprised me, Holy Father.

You're so young... and yet you have such old ideas.

You're wrong about that. I'm an orphan.

And orphans are never young.

But the majority of the churchgoers are not orphans.

Says who?

Do you really think the only orphans are those without a mother and father?

Even if it were true, as an orphan grows older, he may discover a fresh youth within.

We're gonna hold a press conference.

Voiello will be happy to face the press.

Voiello won't be facing the press, you will.

Me? I'm not up to the challenge.

I wouldn't know how to respond.

You won't be expected to respond. You'll be expected to affirm.

Affirm what I am going to dictate to you.

You look on edge to me.

You always ask rhetorical questions.

Why don't you just tell me why I'm on edge?

You're upset because of the press conference.

You've never held one.

Exactly.

And you're depressed because you wanted to do it.

True, but not because I want to be in the spotlight.

I would have been happy for a chance to publicly reassure the bishops, who've been calling me from all over the world, in a general state of alarm.

Can I ask what your general stance will be at the press conference?

No, you cannot.

Tell the truth, you would have preferred Spencer as pope.

Spencer has always been smarter than the rest of us, but also more fragile.

That's why I worked against his election.

Have you ever considered becoming the pope yourself?

No.

A pope needs to inspire trust.

I inspire the opposite.

But the question that distresses me is: what inspires Pope Pius XIII?

Everyone wants to see him, and he refuses to be seen.

The faithful expect reassurance, and instead he offers only unsettling comments.

I can't figure out what he has in mind.

What kind of Church is he looking for?

You tell me, does he have a plan?

I really have to tell you, Sister Mary: this Pope is strange and contradictory.

Just like you.

Just like me?

Just like you!

What can you say about a man who lives in an 6,500-square-foot apartment with a private sauna... and a billiard table, surrounded by fine tapestries, goldsmithery, damasks, and expensive artworks, but who also takes the time, and energy at night to babysit a disabled boy.

You're unbeatable, Sister Mary.

No one's unbeatable, Your Eminence.

It's a matter of patience, which means it's a matter of time.

And that's what I ask of you: time and patience.

And you're not worried?

No, I'm not.

Michael, I'm worried.

Lenny has barely begun and already they're abandoning him in droves.

They should have thought about it before, during the Conclave.

Well now you need to give it some thought.

I've done everything that's within my power to do.

It's up to you!

What are you raving about?

Lenny needs concepts and visions.

I can't help with that, but you can.

You are his spiritual father.

I'm just a tired old man.

And history has passed me by.

You're just a man who's pissed off because you didn't get what you wanted most.

And now you're being spiteful.

A man of your prominence, wallowing in such childishness: aren't you ashamed of yourself, Michael?

The boy has become a man.

He's the father now.

And I must obey him.

Those are the rules.

You're just spouting bullshit and you know it.

He needs you and you refuse to help him in the name of your bottomless vanity.

You will answer for this, before God and in your ravaged conscience.

Lenny doesn't want my help.

He just wants me to approve of his mistakes.

That's what every son wants from their fathers.

So summon him and withhold your approval.

That's what all good fathers do with their sons.

The Pope has dictated the following statement: "I, Pius XIII, Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Province of Rome, Sovereign of the State of Vatican City, and Servant of the Servants of God, wish to inform you of my total indifference to your doubts and criticism, in light of which I deem it necessary to reiterate my infallibility in contrast to your human fallibility."

Is this Pope claiming divine status?

"And by virtue of the prerogative, which is dogmatically sanctioned by the supremacy of the Roman Pontiff, I will not tolerate any delays or compromises as I carry out my plan."

What plan?

We didn't understand anything about the plan.

And once more we don't understand who you are?

Me?

I'm Sister Mary.

Who is Sister Mary?

Holy Father, Cardinal Spencer would be pleased to have you call on him this evening, if you wouldn't mind.

What unforgivable weakness!

There was no need to drag out a bunch of old absurdities from the past.

All you had to do was smile and greet the crowd.

I don't smile and I don't greet.

Did all those years you spend studying with me do you no good at all?

Yes, they taught me to think for myself.

Ah, and this is what you thought all by yourself?

To set every Christian and journalist in the world against you in the first week of your Papacy?

This is part of my plan too.

What plan?

What plan?

Absence is presence.

These are the fundamentals of mystery.

The mystery that will be at the center of my Church.

Mystery is a serious matter, it's not some marketing strategy.

Out there, everyone must learn that it takes sacrifice and suffering to find God.

It's too easy to come to terms with God as the sun is setting.

They have to find Him in the cold and the dark of night.

The way I did.

"Absence is presence."

"Sacrifice and suffering."

I know where these ideas are coming from because I know you even better than you know yourself.

Where are they coming from?

From your own life.

Your parents rejected you, so you've spent your entire life trying to receive them within yourself.

They distanced themselves from you, so you desire them.

And then you, in your unmedicated concide, you presumed that your needs are the same as those of a billion of the Catholics!

Cut out this dime-store psychoanalysis and work with me.

I don't work with nine-year-old boys.

You've never budged from the front gate of that orphanage where one fine day, without explanations, your parents abandoned you.

Cut it out.

May God help us!

You want to make the world pay for the wrong it did you.

You'll be a terrible Pope, the worst and the most dangerous in modern times, and I don't intend to waste the few years I have remaining being an accomplice to a vindictive little boy.

You are drunk.

No. Not enough.

I know that woman.

That's Esther, the wife of Peter.

A Swiss Guard.

Do you still think about me now and then?

I'm begging you, I need to know: do you still think about me now and then?

Let go of me, someone might see us.

So, why did you come get me?

The Holy Father wishes to see you.

Haven't you ever been in the Apostolic Palace before?

Never, in all these years.

Well, what do you think?

It makes you feel uneasy.

It was designed and built with that exact intent.

You wanted to meet me?

Was that clear even from up here?

Why were you standing motionless in the middle of the square?

I wanted you to know.

Know what?

That I loved your homily.

That's not enough!

Because it's not enough to just love it, you also need to perceive it.

I think I perceived it.

And what else did you perceived?

What?

Respect.

What's your name?

All right, let's get started.

Holy Father, I am sure that there is no need to remind you that the cardinals are expecting your speech of thanks and to be sent home.

You're right, there is no need to remind me, but you did it anyway.

What about the papal tiara from Washington?

Apparently it's on its way.

Now: the Kurtwell case.

I have a candidate: a layman, Fabio Claudio Tavarelli.

Highly impartial.

An impartial layman?

Yes, that's Tavarelli.

Your Eminence, you seem a bit impetuous when it comes to the Kurtwell case.

I'm not impetuous. I'm fair.

Among the many things that are fair, let's also remember that the American seminaries run by Kurtwell provide forty percent of all new priests in North America.

Sister Mary, if the intention is to cover up the Kurtwell case...

No one wants to cover anything up, Your Eminence.

But I've already told you that I will oversee the Kurtwell case, and that I will appoint someone I trust.

When, Holy Father?

Later.

When the Holy Spirit illumines me.

Only the Holy Spirit hasn't scheduled a meeting with me yet.

What else do your agenda books tell us?

On Thursday, the Holy Father is scheduled to baptize ninety children from all over Europe.

Must I really subject myself to such torture?

Holy Father, the church tends to attach a fair amount of importance to baptism.

Anything a little more stimulating?

In light of the statements made at the press conference, newspapers around the world have just begun to unlease holy hell.

Well, that's always the first step on the path to paradise.

I see.

I'm not the one dispensing jokes in the Vatican anymore, Your Holiness, now it's you.

Your Eminence, first of all: I suggest you recover as soon as possible your legendary, fake courtesy.

And secondly: my jokes contain the truth.

You know something, Holy Father?

You are as handsome as Jesus, but you are not actually Jesus.

I may actually be more handsome, but keep that to yourself.

Cardinal Spencer, in a private conversation between the two of us, alluded to certain machinations that led to my being elected Pope.

He was unwilling to acquaint me with the details.

I'm not going to insist with Spencer, but I am with you, Voiello.

So, tell me exactly the dynamics that went on to see me elected.

Tell me right now, or what you've seen so far will be nothing but a foretaste of the macabre banquet that will bring on the ruin of the Church.

Explain it all, right here, right now, because even a second later will be too late.

Are you telling me that you're behaving irrationally with the faithful, the Vatican Curia, and the mass media because you were kept out of the loop on the behind-the-scenes machinations that led to your election?

No.

I am ordering you, beginning with your next utterance, to tell me why I was elected, and what my election was supposed to mean to you all.

In truth, the Holy Spirit...

You were not supposed to be the man of the Providence, you were supposed to be the Pope of compromise.

What do you mean by compromise?

Your prudence as a cardinal was interpreted as a potential bridge between the progressive positions so dear to me and the more conservative ones so dear to Spencer.

You were considered to be a synthesis.

A happy synthesis, pleasing both to the Holy Spirit and myself, the great elector who, believing in you and your young talent, influenced a majority of cardinals.

Now, for reasons that are unclear to me, you no longer want to be a bridge.

And this is only the beginning.

Why are you doing this?

Why did you change?

A Pope is not a cardinal.

A cardinal works in a collegial manner, while a Pope is an absolute sovereign.

f*ck, you were supposed to share your sovereignty with my advice and Spencer's!

Not like this!

A decidedly undiplomatic response, Your Eminence.

You're right, Holy Father, and I humbly beg your forgiveness.

I'm not sure that's enough.

Do you want my resignation?

I'm not sure that's enough.

Tell Valente to go to the archives and bring the procedure for deposing a cardinal.

May I ask you both to leave us for a moment?

Your Eminence, would you have me believe that I am Pope thanks to you.

But you and I both know that's not the truth.

But if the Pope thinks he can depose the Secretary of State without all the grave repercussions that are bound to ensue, then it means that he really understands nothing about the way things work here.

You have no idea of how vast my powers are, here and beyond the walls of Vatican City.

You braved this terrible storm out of fear you might lose your cardinalate?

Out of fear I might lose the Church.

Go away.

I don't wanna talk to you anymore.

You're a traitor and a fool.

And I don't know which one is worse.

Wait.

I didn't come alone.

What's he doing?

He's lifting the weight of God.

And what is the weight of God like, Michael?

Very fragile.

It's extremely fragile.

Which is why you are going to help us to fortify God.

I tried.

It's hopeless.

No, Michael.

We have to spend... our whole lives trying.

We have to try right till the moment of our death.

That's what priests do.

We give God's...

...weight!

I beg your forgiveness, Lenny.

Forgive me.

I've come to tell you that I've changed my mind.

I'll gladly accept the position of Prefect for the Congregation for the Clergy.

I'm sorry, Michael, it's too late.

There is no position left open for you.

One more thing, Cardinal Spencer.

What?

Address me as Your Holiness.

Blessed Father, I am the bishop of Belluno, but I speak for all the other bishops of Italy and nearly all the parish priests.

It behooves me to inform you that something anomalous is happening.

Your words to the faithful have sown doubt and, worse, fear.

Many of them are afraid... to set foot inside their parish church again, they come to us, eager for an explanation.

In other words, they're scared.

What truly made our church great?

Fear or tolerance?

What can we learn from the history of our Church?

How great was the papal state when fear among nations was part of our DNA?

How small did we become, how greatly did our influence decline, when we decided to yield.

To succumb, to withdraw, to become accommodating and reassuring?

This place, these people, placate my sense of disquiet, all my anxieties, both ancient and modern.

It's nice and cold, Holy Father.

I don't doubt it, Sister.

Would you be so kind as to bring me three oranges, as well?

Certainly, Holy Father.

I so wish that I could have been thunderstruck, as you were, one May afternoon, in the heart of the Church.

Instead...

I became a priest for lack of a better alternative.

From the orphanage with Sister Mary I went straight to the seminary under the protection of Monsignor Spencer.

Then he became Cardinal Spencer.

But between the end of school and the beginning of seminary I had a week of vacation.

It was the first time I'd ever been out in the world on my own.

I went to California, and there I went to the beach.

And on that beach...

I won over a homely girl who seemed at the time to be the most beautiful girl in the world.

How did you win her over?

Please, tell me.

Thank you.

You're welcome, Holy Father.

Like this.

We were together for a week.

And then, I entered the seminary.

This is the first time I've told anyone about it.

Your Eminence, what, what are you doing in my room?

My dear Gutierrez, have you ever asked yourself how I've managed to run the papal State for all these years?

Many times.

What 's your answer?

It requires a great overarching vision, I imagine.

Precisely the opposite.

No vision whatsoever, but by placing importance on the irrelevant things.

And do you know how I manage to learn all the irrelevant things that no one wants to tell me?

No... how?

By learning people's secrets and threatening to reveal those secrets to the Pope.

One bottle of gin doesn't make an alcoholic of me.

Agreed.

One bottle doesn't.

But a whole liquor store full does.

Who told you I'm an alcoholic?

I forgot to confide in you another stratagem for running the Church: never reveal your sources.

And if for some reason you have to, make them up.

Now, my very dear Bernardo, let's not waste any more time.

You tell me about the irrelevant things that you and the Pope say to each other and I will never tell anyone that I got them from you.

If on the other hand you refuse to tell me, I will reveal your serious problem to the Pope, and I'll have you sent away from the Vatican once and for all.

And you, outside of these walls, will be a lost man, because you are a fearful man.

What do you want me to say?

We, we don't talk about anything of significance, really.

Today, for instance, he told me... with some nostalgia about a girlfriend he had when he was just a kid.

You see, things like that, that's the height of what he confides in me.

Stupid, silly things.

I knew it!

What did you know, Your Eminence?

That the Church is female!

Holy Father...

I have to ask you a somewhat unseemly question.

There are no unseemly questions between you and me, Monsignor.

Because... because you and I respect each other.

What remained with you from your experience with the girl...

...in California?

The memory of her eyes.

At first, eyes full of love, then later eyes full of disappointment.

And that was an important lesson.

I understood that I want Catholics in love and I no longer want to see disappointment in their eyes.

Never again.

Still, at the same time, I occasionally find myself unable to believe my own words.

I don't believe my thoughts, I don't believe in my will, I don't believe in my abilities.

I'm speaking to you from the heart, monsignor.

There are times... there are certain times, or possibly always...

In short, there are times when I don't believe.

There are times when I think it might be better to leave it all in Voiello's hands.

He knows how to do things.

He believes in what he says.

And he still believes in God.

No, Holy Father.

No.

Voiello is a politician.

You are the Pope.