Pope John Paul II (TV miniseries)
|Pope John Paul II|
|Directed by||John Kent Harrison|
|Written by||John Kent Harrison|
|Release dates||4 & 7 December 2005 (USA)|
|Running time||200 min (2 parts)|
The film was written and directed by John Kent Harrison and aired in the United States on the CBS network on 4 and 7 December 2005. It was first released in Vatican City on 17 November 2005 and ten days later throughout Italy.
Jon Voight portrays the older Karol Wojtyla (after his investiture as Pope in 1978), while Cary Elwes portrays Wojtyla in his earlier life from 1939 to 1978. Voight was nominated for an Emmy Award for his performance.
Pope John Paul II co-stars James Cromwell, as Archbishop Adam Stefan Sapieha, Ben Gazzara, as Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, and Christopher Lee as Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński. Polish actor Mikolaj Grabowski is seen twice playing Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, who would succeed John Paul II as Pope Benedict XVI on 19 April 2005.
Part 1: (4 December 2005)
The film opens with 13 May 1981's Pope John Paul II assassination attempt by Mehmet Ali Agca, then while he is on his way to and inside Gemelli Hospital, flashes back to the young Karol "Lolek" Wojtyla whose faith and values are initially fostered by his loving, devout parents, who, along with his older brother, die of natural causes when Karol is 20 years old.
Despite being on his own at a young age and enduring the effects of the Nazi occupation of Poland in 1939 at the start of World War II, the philosophical Karol Wojtyla remains optimistic that he can and must make a difference. He obtains a required work permit to avoid deportation to Germany as slave labor so he can survive the dangerous times by working in Kraków's Zakrzowek quarry and Solvay's chemical plant while secretly embracing the illicit Theatre of Poland to keep Polish culture alive, despite the risks involved, as Nazi Governor General Hans Frank immediately bans all of Poland's culture and education past writing one's name and counting to 500 upon his takeover. Karol also breaks up with his girlfriend, "Anna" out of uncertainty about their futures. Amid the chaos of ongoing atrocities suffered by Polish Jews, academics, religious leaders and others, his father dies of a heart attack in 1941 and in 1942, Wojtyla accepts a calling to leave acting to study for the priesthood priest and joins the underground seminary run by Archbishop Adam Stefan Sapieha, a defiant force for Kraków's people under the Nazi occupation as their highest resistance to their genocidal occupiers and becomes Karol's mentor, involving him in the Polish Resistance movement.
In 1945, World War II ends with Communist tyranny replacing Nazism though the USSR's Vistula-Oder Offensive that continues the flight and expulsion of Germans from Poland. The Yalta Agreement brings Poland's Communist regime (ex. the Polish Provisional Government of "Andrzej Czerney") and the Cold War itself. In 1946, on All Saints Day, Wojtyla is ordained a priest inside Wawel Cathedral by Sapieha, who is now a cardinal, while the Communists, under Soviet Security Advisor "Viktor Dashkov", hunt down and eliminate the Polish Home Army as potential threats because of its ties to the Polish government in exile and start planning Nowa Huta as their new "town without God" by deliberately leaving a church out of its construction. Wojtyla travels to Rome for his graduate studies and returns to Poland in 1948 for his first pastoral assignment at Niegowic's Church of the Assumption (Klodzko). In 1949, he is transferred to Krakow's St. Florian's Church, where as Jagiellonian University's chaplain, the athletic 29-year-old "Fr. Karol" immediately bonds with its students, who enjoy kayaking with him and his inspiring outdoor Masses away as much as possible from the watchful Communists. Sapieha dies in 1951, Wojtyla is appointed Professor of Social Ethics at Catholic University of Lublin in 1956 and in 1958, the Holy See appoints him Krakow's auxiliary bishop—Poland's youngest bishop ever—at only 38, with its ordination, like that of his priesthood's, also held inside Wawel Cathedral.
In 1959, Nowa Huta is completed and Wojtyla celebrates its first Mass outdoors on Christmas Eve. Afterwards, he replaces Nowa Huta's large outdoor cross every Christmas as often as the Communists remove it and leads an unusual religious procession of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa's empty picture frame through Kraków's streets when public displays of religious images was illegal, causing "Dahskov"'s forced return to the USSR. He attends Vatican II sessions, where he impresses many influential foreign cardinals with his charisma, multilingualism and viewpoints, both before and during his term as Krakow's archbishop, and is reunited with an old Jewish friend, "Roman", who he had watched being dragged away by the Nazis to a death camp during World War II, and meets Roman's wife, "Sophia".
After becoming a cardinal in 1967 by Pope Paul VI, Wojtyla returns to Poland and visits a former Resistance member, "Eva Tekkel", who is dying of bone marrow cancer contracted through wartime Nazi medical experiments, but is miraculously cured when Wojtyla prays to Padre Pio. Paul VI dies in 1978 and Papal conclave, August 1978 convenes, electing Albino Cardinal Luciani as Pope John Paul I, who himself dies only 33 days later. The cardinals then reconvene with Papal conclave, October 1978 and Wojtyla is told by Wyszynski to accept the position if he elected, ending Part 1 in a cliffhanger.
Part 2: (7 December 2005)
Opening on October 16, 1978 with deadlocked balloting between Italian cardinals Giovanni Benelli and Giuseppe Siri, Wojtyla wins the election as the next foreign pope since Adrian VI in 1522, naming himself John Paul II, the youngest pope elected since Pius IX in 1846. In his October 22, 1978 Papal inauguration speech, he tells his worldwide audience to "be not afraid", causing Brezhnev and his politboro, who were already shocked at Wojtyla's election, to decide that Wojtyla, like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, is "no friend of Marxism" that need stopping. Afterwards, he visits Italy's people and performs Papal mediation in the Beagle conflict. In 1979, he appoints Agostino Casaroli as his personal Cardinal Secretary of State, receives Soviet foreign minister Andrei Gromyko at the Vatican with questions about the USSR's restrictions on religious freedom, writes his first papal encyclical, Redemptor Hominis, starts his list of pastoral visits of Pope John Paul II outside Italy in Mexico for that year's CELAM Conference of Puebla in an event that attracts millions, despite Mexico's anti-clerical Freemason constitution that technically makes his presence as a foreign religious leader illegal, and asks Poland's authorities again for permission to visit in April for the 900th anniversary of the martyrdom of Poland's patron, St. Stanislaw (Brezhnev advises Edward Gierek against receiving him by suggesting that Gierek claim to be sick). "Roman" appears again at the Vatican with both his daughter and questions about when the Holy See will recognize the state of Israel. Then Gierek's letter arrives approving his requested visit. On 2 June 1979, he begins his first papal visit to his native Poland in Warsaw, where he also attracts and inspires millions, and ends the visit in Krakow on 10 June at his parents graves in Rakowicki Cemetery. In October, 1979, he pays his first papal visit to the United States (Brezhnev then declares an "undeclared war" on him), watches Solidarity's formation in 1980 with prayers and support for it and receives Lech Walesa and his delegation at the Vatican on 15 January 1981 for Walesa's first Vatican audience. The May 13, 1981 attempt on his life is reenacted but without any flashbacks to his younger years and instead includes a "present"-day voiceover from Gemelli Hospital of his prayers for and forgivness of "that brother of ours who shot me".
After recovering from Agca's attack, Pope John Paul II appoints Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, also in 1981, receives U.S. President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan in 1982 for their first Vatican audience, returns to Poland in 1983, where he visits newly released Walesa months before Walesa, then 40, wins the Nobel Peace Prize, prays inside Wawel Cathedral with "Cznery", a drifting Catholic who wants to return, and ends 1983 by visiting Agca inside Rebibbia's prison on 27 December to personally forgive him. In 1984, he appoints Joaquin Navarro-Valls director of the Holy See Press Office and establishes World Youth Days, announces World Youth Day's instituting in 1985, watches and discusses Gorbachev's emerging glasnost and perestroika later in the 1980s (with "Roman" present again) and ends the 1980s by watching Solidarity win the Polish legislative election, 1989.
The 1990s begin with Iraq's Invasion of Kuwait and his failed opposition to it (ex. Christmas Day, 1990 Urbi et Orbi peace prayer) and its resulting Gulf War. Afterwards, he faces a pro-choice demonstration that he responds to by starting his Letter to Women encyclical. He visits Denver in 1993 for its World Youth Day event at Mile High Stadium, watches his book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, become a best-seller and experiences early, mild symptoms of what is now called Parkinson's Disease.
During the remainder of the 1990s, John Paul II's Parkinson's becomes more severe but he still refuses to slow down his busy schedule. In response to his own suffering, he writes his Evangelium Vitae encyclical as opposition to what he calls a growing, worldwide culture of death that threatens the Gospel of Life and preaches his own "Gospel of suffering". He continues to challenge and inspire millions during the 2000s (decade)'s new millennium by his first papal visit to Israel in 2000 another attempt to improve both Christian-Jewish reconciliation and Holy See–Israel relations, where, at Jerusalem's Western Wall, he apologizes and asks forgiveness for the sins committed by the Church during its history. In 2001, he watches the 11 September attacks and in 2002, addresses American cardinals at the Vatican about the Catholic sex abuse scandal, calling it "an appalling sin in the eyes of God". His life's last events in 2005 during Parkinson's severest symptoms (muteness and paralysis) include his last Easter, his last public appearance on 30 March and his off-screen death on 2 April, with a voiceover of his last requests and a montage of earlier events amid the closing credits and main film score.
- Pope John Paul II Official Site
- Pope John Paul II DVD Ignatius Press Website
- Pope John Paul II at the Internet Movie Database