On Tuesday, Feb. 25, PBS’ “Frontline” digs into “Secrets of the Vatican.” Director Antony Thomas offers a preview to Zap2it.
Zap2it: Per the investigation for the documentary, what appear to be the top reasons Benedict XVI chose to resign the papacy?
Antony Thomas: I think Pope Benedict was speaking absolutely truthfully in his own statement, when he was talking about his age and his physical weakness. I think that’s genuine. But I do think that VatiLeaks, and everything that happened in 2012, had a terrible impact on him. The year 2012 was a devastating annus horribilis for him.
Zap2it: Was the election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as much of a surprise as it seemed to non-Vaticanistas?
Thomas: There are some wonderful statements from people who were actually standing in the square that night–they had never heard of him and were all Googling to find out who he was!
But actually, if they had paid a little better attention, he was in the conclave in 2005 when Benedict was elected. He scored the next-highest number of votes. He was the No. 2 choice then.
Zap2it: What was the biggest surprise that came up during production of the documentary?
Antony Thomas: I suppose my biggest surprise was the openness we encountered. The people we interviewed in the Vatican and also the cardinal we interviewed here in London were very frank and open.
The last time I was filming in the Vatican was some years ago, and it was very much prepared statements — very rehearsed. … This was very different.
Zap2it: What Pope Francis moment did you want to make sure was in the final cut?
Antony Thomas: His first visit to Lampedusa, right at the beginning of his pontificate. The very first papal visit he made was down there to this island, where many impoverished people of North Africa and elsewhere are trying to migrate to Europe to get work. The fact that his very first papal visit of any sort – bam, he went there, and at very short notice. I just think that said something so important.