Pope tells Scots that whisky is the real holy water
FOOTAGE of Pope Francis holding up a bottle of Scotch whisky and proclaiming it ‘the real holy water’ was censored by the Vatican ahead of a new BBC documentary focusing on Scottish seminarians in Rome.
The footage featured the Holy Father accepting a bottle of Oban malt from a group of Scottish student priests at a reception at the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace last year.
But Vatican media insisted the pontiff’s quip was cut from the film before it was due for broadcast this Sunday.
Director Tony Kearney, whose company Solus Productions made the one-hour observational documentary Priest School, followed the Scottish seminarians over 18 months in 2018 and 2019.
He said: ‘We filmed the students meeting with the Pope in the Apostolic Palace.
‘One of them was tasked with giving the Pope a bottle of malt, because they know he likes whisky. He was really down to earth with them all, and when they handed him the bottle, instead of just handing it to his assistant as he normally would with a gift, he held it up and said “questa e la vera acqua santa” – which means “this is the real holy water”.
‘He guffawed with laughter and it was a real ice-breaker with the students and put everyone at ease.
‘But we’d agreed that the Vatican’s media office would be allowed to approve all of our footage before we broadcast it.
‘So we sent them the files and when they sent it back that bit of him saying that was cut out.
‘We were really annoyed at first, but they insisted they didn’t want the Pope to be seen to be endorsing whisky.
‘I think it’s quite funny how guarded his image is. We had four or five guys following us in suits with ear pieces, it was like the CIA. I pushed the boundaries as far as we could go.
‘Francis is ripping up the rule book, he’s ahead of the curve, and the flunkies around about him need to catch up.
‘We’ve managed to get rare access into an ancient Scottish institution and what it’s like to train as a priest – we’ve never seen it before.
‘These are down-to-earth, ordinary blokes who like a drink, like the football and live ordinary lives. It smashes the mystery.’
Priest School, BBC Scotland, Sunday 10pm
Bottle gift: Pope Francis