Lapopessa is the semi-biographical re-imagining of a historical love story between a nun, Sister Pascalina, and a priest, Eugenio Pacelli, who becomes Pope Pius XII. In this version of history, Sister Pascalina was the most powerful woman in the Catholic church and lived secretly in the private Papal apartments with Pope Pius XII for 20 years.
She was fiercely protective of the Pope and worked hard to put him on the Papal throne. And she protected him from those who did not support his papacy. She had to endure much criticism and mockery of the title Lapopessa, which means female Pope in Italian. This title was given to her by the disapproving, misogynist male hierarchy.
At times, Sister Pascalina functioned much as a Pope and was responsible for many of the significant decisions made during Pius' papacy. She was directly involved in negotiations with Hitler and Mussolini that changed history.
Sister Pascalina formed the Pontifical Relief Committee, which issued false Christian identification papers to many Jews and tunneled them to freedom through the Vatican. She oversaw the melting of ancient Vatican gold treasures to pay Nazis ransom to save Jews throughout Europe. She accomplished all this and more as the world publicly condemned Pius as a silent Pope for not speaking out against the atrocities that occurred.
Pascalina has never been officially recognized or credited for her significant accomplishments. But references to her are found in several books, newspapers, and magazines. My research on Pascalina Lehnert's life included a trip to Europe where I met a nun who worked closely with Pascalina. She gave me an extended interview as well as abundant reference materials. Lapopessa tells the classic story of the strong woman behind the man when women did not hold positions of power. This musical presents a unique love story filled with joy, sorrow, humor, and drama. It is a moving musical theater experience, but most importantly, Lapopessa is the story of a strong woman who dedicated her life to making a young, frail priest become the leader of the Catholic church.