Pope John Paul II is the world's first 'famous' Pope. He comes into power during the height of the Cold War and serves for nearly three decades, the second longest term in papal history. Having come of age during the Nazi invasion of his native Poland, and keenly aware of the shortcomings of the Vatican during World War II, John Paul II immerses the religious office into global affairs.
In July 2016, Pope Francis makes an emotional visit to Auschwitz, the former Nazi death camp where more than 1.1 million Jews were executed. In the dark shadows of the Holocaust, the Pope prays for the forgiveness of mankind, and immerses himself in the controversial legacy of his predecessor, Pope Pius XII.
Following the excess and scandal of the Renaissance era, the papacy looks to reclaim its sense of morality and leadership. Men like Martin Luther and Henry VIII begin to question the previously absolute power of the papacy and initiate a splintering of what was once a universal church. Rome responds by making deep reforms and launching spiritual movements. Ignatius Loyola founds the Jesuits, a new sect of Catholicism focused on universal education for all. Pope Francis comes to power as the first Jesuit pope in history.
The Renaissance marks the end of a fractured church and the emergence of the papacy as a chief patron of art, architecture, music and literature. But cultural advancement is accompanied by increasing corruption and ambition, as popes acquire temporal power and political influence. With Rodrigo Borgia on the throne of Peter, the papacy reaches a nadir, scandalising people inside and outside the church and planting the seeds of reform.
In 2013, Pope Benedict XVI's resignation shocks the world. In the 2000-year history of the papacy, only four men have ever stepped down. And in times when more than one living man has laid claim to the thrown of St Peter, chaos ensues. The resignation of a modern pope and peaceful transfer of power has shown the world what the position means today and how it has evolved in an ever-changing world.
Beginning with Peter's perilous grassroots movement in the wake of Christ's crucifixion, follow Christianity's dramatic journey through the time of the Crusades, undertaken to recover the Holy Land from Islamic rule. Through blood, battle, and faithful perseverance, we watch as the pope evolves from the spiritual leader of an outlawed cult to one of the most powerful men on Earth.
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