On Thursday, we walked past the Palazzo Venezia in Rome; that’s where Mussolini gave rabble rousing speeches prior to WWII.
And there they were in a hallway, 50 or so Cardinals dressed in their finest red hats and outfits.
But it was odd. Some were smoking; others were reading newspapers or were on cell phones. None seemed what you might expect.
There was a Synod of bishops and cardinals from all over the world this week in nearby Vatican City that coincided with the canonization of four saints last Sunday.
When we walked around the palace, all of the cardinals came out a back entrance and started to wait for taxis. It all seemed very odd. There were people chumming up the bishops who claimed they were from places like Canada, and the cardinalss blessed them. Most spoke Italian, although they looked like they were from all sorts of other places. One black “cardinal” even seemed a little too friendly with a black model-looking young lady. A scandal in the works?
Eventually, we chatted up the cardinals, and they conceded in broken English and Italian that they were all actors working on a film called “The Young Pope”, directed by Oscar-winning film director Paolo Sorrentino. The Vatican refused to permit filming there, so they have sought other locations in Rome. Although the cardinals told us it would be an Italian movie, the main actors, whom we did not see, are top US actors Jude Law and Diane Keaton.
The plot is centered around a fictitious pope, the first Italian-American pontiff in history. The story takes place in the present day between Vatican City, Italy, the US and Africa.
The project, which is being filmed in eight 50-minute parts, is being directed entirely by Sorrentino and may initially be shown as a TV mini-series.
Eventually, the cardinals in full regalia, all 50 or so of them, took a walk down a busy street in Rome, and it was amusing to see the reactions from people, even in this city where cardinals and bishops are fairly ordinary. A few people even snapped at us when we said they were fakes.