DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - An upcoming miniseries is depicting a fictitious pope as atheist, "dangerously iconoclastic" and "borderline anti-Christ."
Titled "The Young Pope," the HBO series, set to debut in the United States in February 2017, showcases fictional pontiff Pope Pius XIII, an "arrogant," "unpredictable" and "hilariously destructive" prelate elevated to the papacy as both the youngest cleric and first American to be made pope. The 10-part program follows Pope Pius XIII as he navigates the politics of Rome and prepares to "wage a war without end" against "canny" cardinals, one of whom is noted for his frequent "sexual fantasies.."
A trailer for the miniseries begins with the pope in confession telling his confessor he has no "sins to confess," followed by a voiceover from Pope Pius stating, "I'm a contradiction. I'm God."
According to a review by the Hollywood Reporter, the show is quick to portray the pope as cunning and manipulative; one scene in an early episode depicts Pope Pius tempting his confessor with the promise of power if the priest will break the seal of confession and reveal the sins of certain cardinals. In this same conversation, Pope Pius admits to his confessor that he does not believe in God.
The miniseries, whose first two episodes premiered out-of-competition at the Venice Film Festival, features Diane Keaton as Sr. Mary, an American nun living in Vatican City who helped raise Lenny Belardo, or Pope Pius XIII, and casually refers to the pontiff as "Lenny." American actor James Cromwell also stars as Cdl. Michael Spencer, a bitter prelate who advises Pius to be a "terrible pope, the worst" in order to "make the world pay for the wrong it did [him]."
Early reviews for the work are describing "The Young Pope" as "amusing, unpredictable and irreverent," having a "delicious conceit" and being a far cry from the more "gentle" portrayals of Vatican City.
Paolo Sorrentino, the filmmaker responsible for the series, describes the program as highlighting "the clear signs of God's existence" and His "absence."
"How faith can be searched for and lost," the Italian director continues. "The greatness of holiness, so great as to be unbearable when you are fighting temptations and when all you can do is to yield to them."
"The inner struggle between the huge responsibility of the head of the Catholic Church and the miseries of the simple man that fate — or the Holy Spirit — chose as pontiff," he went on. "Finally, how to handle and manipulate power in a state whose dogma and moral imperative is the renunciation of power and selfless love towards one's neighbor."
The miniseries will air this October in Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom.