The Pope makes 'History' (Channel)

History Channel will air a two-hour special on the Vatican tonight at 9pm ET that will feature some rarely-seen footage of Benedict XVI at work and prayer (and play, on the piano) in the papal apartments that I thought was pretty nifty. But I would, as I was a consultant on the program, and I appear in a couple of cringe-inducing sound bites. (Does anyone actually like seeing themselves on TV?) The show provides an overview of the history of the Vatican, and focuses on everyday life in the city-state today, and how it all works, or doesn't, as the case may be. A clip of the pope at work is here, and other elements that stuck in my mind were segments on science and faith with Jesuit astronomer Brother Guy Consolmagno and the Vatican's finances with Cardinal Lajolo, the very approachable and witty administrator of Vatican City State. (One needs a sense of humor in that job.) I learned a heckuva lot, and wish we had two hours just on the archives, for example, and the fascinating -- and frustrating, and under-financed -- effort to digitize and preserve centuries worth of invaluable documents. So it goes.In any case, much of the information in the program may be familiar to many here, but I do think it will be of interest to a lot of Catholics and others, piercing a number of myths (the Vatican's supposed limitless wealth, e.g.) and providing (with the help of Vatican television in many cases) a personal portrait of the place and its people. Buon divertimento!

David Gibson is the director of Fordham’s Center on Religion & Culture.

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