Changing Planet

Looking Inside the Vatican as Cardinals Prepare to Pick Next Pope

As Catholic cardinals prepare to convene on Tuesday for the conclave to pick the successor to Pope Benedict XVI, we’re highlighting parts of Inside the Vatican, a special that National Geographic Television produced for PBS during the pontificate of Pope John Paul II, Benedict’s predecessor.

The special’s crew was granted unusual access to the Vatican, roaming through areas typically closed to the public and to the news media.

Some viewers may recognize the narrator: actor Martin Sheen, a devout Catholic.

The segment above describes how cardinals choose a pope, covers papal history, details the uniform of the Vatican’s famed Swiss Guard (all members must be from Switzerland), and explains the crucial role the Vatican played in codifying our modern calendar (known as the Gregorian calendar, after Pope Gregory XIII).

Below is the first part of the special, about Vatican City, the world’s smallest sovereign nation; and about St. Peter, for whom the Vatican’s basilica is named. You’ll also see preparations for the pope’s ordination of nine new bishops.

The following segment showcases the Pope’s photographer, whose day is nearly as busy as the church’s global leader. You’ll also go beneath the Vatican’s museums and galleries for restoration of art, and view a state visit from Argentina’s president.

The final segment of Inside the Vatican offers a tour of St. Peter’s Basilica. It opens with a rehearsal of the boys of the pontifical choir, who must be between the ages of 9 and 12. They leave the choir when they turn thirteen or when their voices change, whichever comes first. It concludes with the ceremony for ordination of new bishops.

Inside the Vatican is available on DVD. Visit .

Inside the Vatican end credits: Produced, written and directed by John Bredar. Edited by Bonnie Cutler-Shear


Jeff has been a Senior Video Producer with National Geographic for over 10 years. He manages day-to-day operation of National Geographic's online video player and writes, produces and narrates videos. A video news journalist for more than 25 years, his previous experience includes Senior Producer for Discovery Science Channel, Executive Producer for a regional cable news channel, and News Director, News Anchor, Producer and Reporter for several local network affiliates in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Washington, DC and West Virginia.
  • Jean Paul

    “There is a New Message from God in the world, and one of the things that it calls for is the emergence of women leaders, particularly in the area of spirituality and religion. It is time now for certain women to be called into these greater roles and responsibilities, and it is important around the world in different quarters and in different religious traditions that this be allowed.

    Clearly, women in many societies have been taking greater roles, but there is still considerable resistance, and in some traditions, it is not allowed at all. But there must be a greater recognition here of the inherent strength of women and the natural capacity they can serve in this regard. For even in current traditions, women may not serve as the recognized leaders, but they are in most cases the backbone of the religious organization and tradition itself.

    Men should not be threatened by this, for it is an assumption of natural abilities. And while men will continue to be religious leaders, the opportunity for women should be greatly expanded. For if an individual, a woman in this case, has developed her skills in learning of the deeper mind and of responding to it appropriately—in carrying out its direction responsibly, without altering it or redefining it for herself or for the expectations of others—then as she gains this maturity and this responsibility, she can assume a greater and more natural role as a religious leader.

    Therefore, that is why this could be called the Age of Women, the rise of women—not only to positions of political prominence, not only to positions of leadership in business or commercial affairs, but really in the realm of religion and spirituality.”

  • Sam

    Men are generally not threatened by women in leadership (feminists really need to get over using that boring word-phase “threatened by)”. Men are generally disgusted by women in leadership. Consider how (officially or not) increasingly dominant female values and focus in religious organizations have driven men and boys away from America’s Churches and Synagogues. The more a religious institution liberalizes the more men move away to other religions or choose non-affiliation. The reality is that men have come to learn is that women don’t want equality: they want special class treatment and status. A the Catholic Church liberalizes and feminizes so will they lose the interest and support of men and boys. Deal with it.

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