New miniseries coming about Venerable Pius XII

A new miniseries/film is in the works, Sotto il Cielo di Roma, Under the Roman Sky.  It will star James Cromwell as Ven. Pius XII and deal with his to save the Jews of Rome.  

Not new news, but it’s good news.

From what I can make out, it will be in two parts, of 100 minutes each.


When the trailer was made they obviously didn’t have their own musical score yet, since they have recycled music from other films, including Lord of the Rings and, oddly, Forest Gump.  That is not uncommon with trailers long in advance of films, btw.

Hopefully this film will do something to dispel lies about Ven. Pius XII.


Pope Benedict attended a screening.  That would have to be a little intimidating, no?  Knowing that you sit at the same desk… occupy the same cathedra… in times that are becoming more and more difficult.

Oremus pro Pontifice nostro Benedicto.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. pseudomodo says:

    Question for Fr. Z: When did Pius XII become a venerable? [19 Dec 2009]

  2. smad0142 says:

    Father do you know if this miniseries has aired yet in the States or if it is able to be bought as a DVD yet? I tried to Google the miniseries and did not find anything too helpful.

  3. Rellis says:

    Given that it’s James Cromwell, I’m a little skeptical that this will be a fair portrayal of the Pope. An actor as prominent as Cromwell wouldn’t want to upset the status quo of Hollywood, if you know what I mean.

  4. Actually, Rellis, James Cromwell did a very good job portraying the archbishop of Krakow in one of the films about Pope John Paul II – the one with Cary Elwes as the young Karol Wojtyla. It is not fair to Cromwell to assume he’s going to do a hatchet job on Pope Pius simply because he’s a well known movie star.

  5. Correction: Cromwell played Cardinal Adam Sapieha.

  6. Patrick J. says:

    I don’t get the fake sounding Italian accents for the commoners and then not for the Italian Pope. Better without these accents, have Italians speaking in Italian with subtitles or kibosh the accents. The scores for trailers are usually not the actual musical underscores, sometimes there are copyright issues, sometimes the score is not finished. But yes, the modern score for this period piece is whack to my ears.

  7. The biggest problem I foresee with James Cromwell portraying Ven. Pius is (at least for me) not thinking of his role as Stretch Cunningham in All in the Family.

    May Ven. Pius obtain grace and mercy for Cromwell and all other actors who portray him.

  8. Geoffrey says:

    I have been waiting for this film ever since I saw the trailer a few months ago. I assume that in the USA it will be “straight-to-video”?

  9. Servant of the Liturgy says:

    Cinematically, the movie looks fantastic from that trailer. I hope it sticks to history and gives an accurate and moving portrayal of His Holiness.

    As a young person who is both devoted to and inspired by Pius, seeing the image of him with outstretched hands among the rubble praying for peace brought me chills. I also hope we see another popular image of him: with his bird.

  10. Bornacatholic says:

    He was a great man and a fantastic Pope and I am sure The Jewish Community, with whom we have made friends, will be supportive of the film.

  11. Warren says:


    A man by the name of Cromwell playing a pope?! Btw, his middle name is Oliver. Really.

  12. Lori Pieper says:

    This film looks really good. I hope it will be historically accurate, otherwise Pius’ enemies will be all over it.

    Speaking of historical accuracy, does anyone know if there is anything to the scene in the film of an attempted long-distance exorcism of Hitler by Pius? (At least I think that’s what’s happening in the trailer).

    Not a bad idea but well . . . bizarre. Are long-distance exorcisms even considered possible?

  13. irishgirl says:

    Another famous actor portrayed Pius XII-Sir Alec Guinness, in “The Scarlet and The Black”. That was the one with Gregory Peck as Msgr. Hugh O’Flaherty, who was nicknamed, ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican’, because disguised himself to spirit Allied POWs out from under the Nazis’ noses.

    “The Black’ was Herbert Kappler, the German Commandant of Rome.

  14. Tom Ryan says:

    I don’t think that was Obi-Wan Kenobi playing Pacelli.
    As for Msgr. Hugh O’Flaherty, a pretty good video bio with English sub titles is available here:

  15. Geoffrey says:

    It was the late Sir John Gielgud (1904–2000) who played Pius XII in “The Scarlet and the Black”. He also played Paul VI in “Shoes of the Fisherman”, and another pope in “Elizabeth”.

  16. Prof. Basto says:


    You call your clarification a correction, but there was nothing to correct in your first post. Cardinal Sapieha was Archbishop of Krakow.

    So, by playing Card. Sapieha, Cromwell was playing the Archbishop of Krakow. And he did a good job.

  17. albinus1 says:

    It’s listed on IMDB (Internet Movie Database) under the title “Pope Pius XII”. It’s listed as “in production”, as a TV movie. Other than a cast list, there’s not much more information given.

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who still thinks of James Cromwell as Stretch Cunningham!

  18. basilorat says:

    NO ONE plays a better Pope Pius XII than Sir John Gielgud!!!!! In fact, I’d dig him up, stuff him, and put him on the balcony during interregni! He was just that good! (yes, yes, I know he was a puffta, but he had the look and the aplomb down pat!)

  19. The Cobbler says:

    “That would have to be a little intimidating, no?”

    To the Pope or to the filmmakers? I see your point, I just thought it ran the other way when I first read that sentence — I guess it runs both ways, as they say?

    “Speaking of historical accuracy, does anyone know if there is anything to the scene in the film of an attempted long-distance exorcism of Hitler by Pius? (At least I think that’s what’s happening in the trailer).

    “Not a bad idea but well . . . bizarre. Are long-distance exorcisms even considered possible?”

    I don’t have the historical data to reference, but what I’m told is as follows: it is considered possibly possible but unlikely to ever work, espcially if the possessed person doesn’t want to be made free (since that makes it unlikely to work even physically present and everything else in order), but the Pope apparently did have the attempt made.

  20. James Cromwell played the US president in the movie “The Sum of All Fears”. Now he is the Pope!

    Pretty “powerful” guy…

  21. Geoffrey says:

    “Speaking of historical accuracy, does anyone know if there is anything to the scene in the film of an attempted long-distance exorcism of Hitler by Pius?”

    Yes, it was reported in the media a while back that Ven. Pope Pius XII attempted a “long-distance” exorcism (reciting the prayers, etc.). However, exorcists have said this wouldn’t work, as the possessed person needs to be physically present. But there was no harm in the venerable pontiff praying the prayers. I could imagine it almost as a prayer of desperation.

  22. TonyLayne says:

    @Lori Pieper: “I hope it will be historically accurate, otherwise Pius’ enemies will be all over it.”

    Pius XII’s enemies would be all over it even if every stitch of Cromwell’s dialogue and every gesture of his hands had citations from six Pulitzer Prize-winning historians. They’ve been doing their best to paint him as either a distant, disinterested neutral or a passive supporter of Hitler for the last fifty years, and have gotten very adept at avoiding or suppressing the truth when it gets in their way.

  23. patrick_f says:

    It is too cool when we take hollywood and turn it on its self, God is Magnificent!

  24. Cory says:

    I’m sure all Trekkies will remember his portrayal as Zephram Cochrane. I think Pius XII followed Cochrane’s quote in the movie First Contact: “Don’t try to be a great man. Just be a man and let history make its judgement.”

  25. Son of Trypho says:

    Unfortunately I tend to agree with TonyLayne on this one – the Jewish community is usually hostile to anything relating to Pius XII.
    I refer readers to this interesting article from an Australian Jewish website which I followed;

    What is interesting is that there are some Jewish and Catholic individuals trying to discuss the matter reasonably and the rest – well see for yourself.

    (N.B. I am a Hebrew Catholic i.e. converted Jew myself so I have no particular axe to grind.)

  26. Lori Pieper says:

    Cobbler and Geoffrey, thanks for the info on the exorcism.

    We should remember that there are many Jewish individuals and groups who support Pius XII. Rabbi David Dalin wrote a splendid book called “The Myth of Hitler’s Pope.” He pointed out that making Pius XII into either a passive or active tool of the Nazis has been largely a secularist project rather than that of believing Jews (though of course, many Jews nowadays are secularists).

    Another Jew who has done tremendous work in this regard is Gary Krupp, who heads the Pave the Way Foundation. The organization’s site has tons of links to photo, video and documents – even a whole book of documents in pdf — that portray the truth about Pope Pius XII’s work for the Jews and his role in WWII. You can check it out here:

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