BY Ryan McDougall | May 4 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

priest school

Scots College rector says BBC documentary’s success shows desire for more religious-themed shows

The rector of the Pontifical Scots College in Rome said the success of a new BBC documentary on the seminary shows there is an appetite for more religious-themed TV shows.

Fr Daniel Fitzpatrick told the SCO he was ‘delighted’ with Priest School, which aired on April 19, and said Catholics are hopeful the seminarians featured on the show ‘will be part of rebuilding the Church’ after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The one-off documentary was filmed across one academic year at the college, featuring seminarians taking part in their studies, meeting Pope Francis, and gives a flavour as to how they spend their free time in Rome.

The show has amassed more than 80,000 views and due to its success the BBC has made it available to stream online for the next 11 months. It was originally only available on the website for 30 days after it aired.

Publicity boost

Fr Fitzpatrick said: “While I knew that there was a fair bit of publicity in the build up to it being aired, I don’t think anyone here or at the BBC could have imagined that it would be quite as popular with viewers as it turned out to be.

“It shows that there is still a lot of people who have an interest in Faith and that more religious programming should be available.”

Asked if he believed the show could lift the spirits of Scottish Catholics who are currently unable to attend Mass due to the lockdown, he added: “From some of the messages that we have received here in Rome, it would appear to be exactly that for many Catholics at home.

Rebuilding the Church

“They look forward to our churches opening again when it is safe, and they hope that some of the men they saw on the TV will be part of rebuilding the Church after this pandemic.”

Fr Fitzpatrick, who has been rector of the 420-year-old college since 2015, says Priest School did well giving insight into what life in the seminary is like.

He said: “All these sorts of programmes can do is give a taste of seminary life, but they did it very well. It is a bit easier to show the big events that are part of the year, but the day-to-day life is not so easy to capture.


“they perhaps didn’t quite get the intensity and rhythm of the ordinary day, but that would not make sure interesting television. What I think they got really well was the commitment of the men and the variety of their vocation stories and personalities.”

Fr Fitzpatrick’s favourite moments on the show, other than his appearance on the football pitch, he joked, was when the students met Pope Francis and when the crew visited the Old College building. He said ‘for me that moment caught the real sense of the continuity of the priesthood and of the Scots College.’

Asked if he believes there is scope for other documentaries on seminaries around the world, he said: “I am sure that there is room to explore some of the other colleges. It would be interesting to see just how priests are trained in the different parts of the world where the Church struggles and where formation must be very challenging.”

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