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The Guest of St Peter's

Duration: 45 minutes

First broadcast: on BBC Radio 4 FMLatest broadcast: on BBC Radio 4 LW

Not since the Middle Ages have two Popes been alive at the same time. One reason why no modern Pope until Benedict has ever resigned is the danger that a living ex-Pope would become an alternative locus of power and influence within the Vatican.

The Guest of St Peter's imagines just such a scenario.

Thomas Perret is supposed to be dead. Two years ago he resigned as Pope Paul VII, citing old age and illness that made him incapable of carrying out his duties. He has lived ever since in almost total isolation in a small monastery within the grounds of the Vatican City. It was widely assumed that Perret wouldn't last long, but he shows no signs of dying any time soon.

Perret's successor, Pope Leo XIV, has a big problem. A hardline conservative, he has excommunicated a group of liberal American Catholic priests who were offering contraception advice to their parishioners. The Americans have defied him, and have rapidly attracted support from progressive Catholics all over the western world. Leo's authoritarian stance has backfired. Decades of disillusionment with the Vatican's unwillingness to change has boiled over, and Leo now faces the very real risk of a split. At the very least, the absolute authority of the papacy has been gravely undermined. It needs desperately to be shored up.

Cardinal Sastre, the Vatican secretary of state, has a plan. He visits the old Pope in his monastery and appeals to him to make an intervention.
As sides are taken and battle lines drawn, Sastre realises that he has embarked in a dangerous course. The Vatican, after all, is a house of cards, and his actions are in danger of bringing the whole thing crashing down...

Directed by Eoin O'Callaghan. Show less


Cardinal Luis Sastre:
David Warner
Hannah Cox:
Amaka Okafor
Pope Leo XIV:
Anton Lesser
Cardinal Neal Cooke:
Guy Paul
Cardinal John Ankrah:
Jude Akuwudike
The old Pope Paul VII:
Andrew Sachs




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