In this fictional story, a clandestine group of Cardinals arrange to get the Archbishop of New York City, Lenny Belardo (played by Jude Law), elected as the youngest and first-ever American Pope, with the aim of manipulating him as their pawn. But as Belardo takes on the role of Pope as Pius XIII it appears that he may be the one doing the manipulating. One of Belardo's first actions as Pope Pius XIII is to secretly command the priests who handles the Confessions of the Cardinals and other noteworthy Vatican staff to report back to him the details of each of these people's sins. Has Belardo actually been scheming for years to rise through the Church's hierarchy?
To the surprise of the Cardinals who elected him, instead of taking a refreshing, youthful approach to directing the policies of the Church, Pius XIII announces ultra conservative, hardline initiatives that rock the Vatican status quo. He also forsakes the guidance of the Vatican's long-time Secretary of State, Cardinal Voiello, and brings in the nun who raised him at a Catholic orphanage, Sister Mary (played by Diane Keaton), as his chief confidante and counsel. Of course Vatican insiders begin a plot to take the Pope down trying to find dirt on him or catch him in a scandalous act to force his ouster. As Law's character consolidates his power and executes his duties with an ironfisted authority, the story becomes a mystery about whether the young Pope is a man of conviction or one full of contradictions.
Does Pius XIII have a spiritual philosophy for leading the Church? Is a psychological disorder impacting him causing his behavior to be askew? Or is Lenny Belardo just someone who craves authority over other people to compensate for the lack of power he had when abandoned by his parents as a child? Trying to understand this complicated character's intentions provides an intricate plot for viewers to unravel as the show progresses.
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