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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

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New BBC TV documentaries to coincide with the Papal Visit

To coincide with the first Papal Visit for 28 years (16-19 September) the BBC today announces a series of new documentaries across BBC television.

In Benedict – Trials Of A Pope on BBC Two (1 x 60') award-winning film maker Mark Dowd goes in search of the real Joseph Ratzinger.

Ratzinger is a man who was the darling of liberals in the Second Vatican Council but who is now the champion of traditionalists.

Dowd's journey takes him from the papal homeland of Bavaria to the heart of the Vatican itself. In his quest to understand Pope Benedict, Dowd explores how the current clerical abuse crisis has dogged the Pope's mission to combat western secularism. The programme also features a rare interview with the Pope's brother, Georg Ratzinger, who tells the BBC how his brother has been affected by recent scandals. Dowd also profiles the attempts of the Church here in the UK to fashion a positive message about Pope Benedict by training up an army of young religious spin doctors called Catholic Voices.  

The climax of Pope Benedict's visit to Britain will be the Beatification Ceremony on 19 September of the 19th century Cardinal John Henry Newman. Beatification is the penultimate step before Sainthood; all Newman needs is one more miracle to be attributed to him and he will become England's first non-martyred Saint since the Reformation. Newman was a leading Anglican cleric who converted to Catholicism and in Newman – The Reluctant Saint (working title) on BBC Two (1 x 60') Ann Widdecombe explores Newman's road to Sainthood.

In the programme, Widdecombe meets Deacon Jack Sullivan from Boston who was apparently miraculously cured by the intercession of Newman. She also speaks to witnesses to his recovery, such as the back specialists and the Vatican medics who pronounced the miracle authentic. Widdecombe travels to Rome, Oxford and Birmingham to meet ordinary Catholics, historians and specialists on the life of Newman to shed light on his biography, as well as meeting leading figures from the Catholic and Anglican Church to explain Newman's importance to British Catholicism.

Aaqil Ahmed, Commissioning Editor Religion and Head of Religion & Ethics, says: "Benedict – Trails Of A Pope and Newman – The Reluctant Saint are both fascinating and thought-provoking documentaries which will provide a unique insight and background to the Papal Visit." 

BBC Four meanwhile takes an intriguing behind-the-scenes look at the workings of the Vatican itself, through the eyes of those who work there in Vatican – The Hidden World (1x60'). From the bones of St Peter to the dome of the Sistine Chapel, from the curators who tend the Vatican's treasures to the archivists who guard its  historical documents, this fascinating documentary offers a unique view of  a  world  that very few will ever see. 

In full coverage of the Papal Visit, the BBC will broadcast news and events programmes and current affairs across radio and TV. Further details of these will be released in due course.

Notes to Editors

Benedict – Trials Of A Pope and Newman – The Reluctant Saint (working title) have both been commissioned by Aaqil Ahmed, Commissioning Editor Religion and Head of Religion & Ethics.

Benedict – Trials Of A Pope and Newman – The Reluctant Saint (working title) are BBC Vision Productions and the executive producer is John Claude Bragard.

Vatican – The Hidden World is an ARD/BBC co-production for BBC Four. The BBC executive producer is Carol Sennett.

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