Pope Francis to appear in BBC documentary after 'unprecedented' access inside the Vatican

Pope Francis. Credit: AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino
Pope Francis. Credit: AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino

"Unprecedented" access to the inner workings of the Vatican has been given for a BBC documentary.

From Pope Francis and some of his highest ranking officials to the choristers of the Sistine Chapel and the papal gardener, the series will give an insight into the lives of those who live and work in this independent City State.

Gardener Bruno Pedditzi preparing for the Easter celebrations at the Vatican. Picture: BBC.

Gardener Bruno Pedditzi preparing for the Easter celebrations at the Vatican. Picture: BBC.

The first of two episodes will air on BBC Two on Friday September 20 between 9pm and 10pm.

Filmed during Pope Francis’ fifth year in office, the series also charts a time of change as he introduces reforms, "shakes up the clerical establishment" and deals with the fallout of a sex abuse scandal that re-surges just as the Pope embarks on a historic visit to Ireland.

-> Pope begs for God's forgiveness for the "open wound" of church abuse in Ireland
The first episode follows the build up to Easter, the most sacred celebration in the Church calendar.

As Easter draws near, the Sanpietrini - skilled craftsmen responsible for the upkeep of St Peter’s Basilica - are hard at work.

For them this is not a routine job, but a tradition that has been passed down from the original craftsmen who built St Peter’s, the most important church in the Catholic world.

The Vatican gardeners also have a key role to play, preparing the olive branches to decorate St Peter’s Square and palm leaves to adorn the columns of the Basilica.

Meanwhile the Vatican Police Force makes stringent security checks in anticipation of the arrival of tens of thousands of pilgrims. Ever since the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in 1981, security has been stepped up, and because this Pope prizes his spontaneity he presents a challenge for his security team.

Also preparing for Easter is Mark Spyropoulos, the first Englishman to sing in the Sistine Chapel Choir since the Reformation. Mark has a very special responsibility: on Easter Saturday he must stand up in St Peter’s and sing solo for Pope Francis and a worldwide television audience of many millions.

After the festivities of Palm Sunday, the early part of the Easter week is given over to quiet contemplation inside the Vatican.

This is when Pope Francis follows a very personal Easter ritual. He visits inmates of the Regina Coeli Prison to wash their feet.

Viewers meet Archbishop Paul Gallagher, originally from Liverpool, who is the head of the Vatican’s equivalent of the Foreign Office.

It shows him leaving his private apartment inside the Apostolic Palace to attend the Pope’s annual State Of The World address in the Sistine Chapel.

Pope Francis, the Vatican’s first Latin American pontiff, believes the Church should be close to the people. For this reason he prefers to live in a modest apartment in the Casa Santa Marta rather than the grand rooms of the Apostolic Palace where his predecessors have lived for centuries.

The show follows Pope Francis as he meets some of the pilgrims during one of his general audiences, which take place every Wednesday, and get inside the Department of Communications to meet the new media team, "an influential tool of the Vatican," said the BBC.