The Patriarch of Venice has lashed out at the ‘New Pope’ series for an “offensive” scene of nuns in nightgowns dancing under a crucifix.

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Patriarch Francesco Moraglia issued his verdict on the new nine-episode HBO drama via a statement January 13 from the diocesan official in charge of cultural heritage, Father Gianmatteo Caputo.

Moraglia and Caputo took particular issue with the opening scene of the Paolo Sorrentino-directed show, which features a group of young female religious gyrating to strobe lights and dance music in sexy white nightgowns beneath a giant fluorescent crucifix.

The scene was shot in an old monastery in Venice, hence the churchmen’s reactions.

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In his statement, Caputo blasted the scene as “offensive” and “lacking a narrative context that justifies the reason and the content”.

Although the official recognised the series was “fantasy”, and the series as a whole designed “to provoke controversial, at times irreverent and provocative, reactions”, Caputo nonetheless compared the opening shot to a tacky filmclip.

“What is offered to the viewers is only a shot similar to a music video made in a fundamental place of history and monastic tradition in Venice”, Caputo lamented.

He added that the monastery where Sorrentino filmed the scene was “transformed into a sort of stage for a dance with winking and allusive content, placed under the Christian symbol par excellence, the cross”.

Why it matters

“We are faced with an episode which offends and profanes the reference to the symbol of the cross and which is inappropriate because it is based on the free will to provoke and cause reaction”, Caputo added.

His angry reaction aside, however, the Venice Church official said it wasn’t worth calling for the scene to be censored, calling for viewers to ignore the provocation instead.

“It would have been advisable… not to allow the use of that space of high historical and symbolic value for filming”, Caputo lamented.

What’s next

‘The New Pope’, which premiered January 10 on Italian station Sky Atlantic, is the highly-anticipated sequel to the successful ‘Young Pope’ series of 2016.

John Malkovich stars as the ‘new pope’, Pope John Paul III, who was elected after the ‘young pope’ – Jude Law as Pius XIII, the first American pope – went into a coma after a heart attack.

The opening scene of the new production with the nuns in their nighties has already gone viral, pointing to another win for Sorrentino after his run- away 2016 series.

Next on Novena:

Venice Patriarch condemns anti-Semitic, Mussolini-inspired attack on left-wing politician


Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.