In flashbacks to an early age, he lost his mother and his brother Edmund. Later, he lived through the Nazi occupation of his homeland, Poland during World War II and post war Communism. Through all these hardships, he maintained his love for Jesus of Nazareth and the virgin Mary.
He became an ordained priest, and eventually Krakow's archbishop, where he began his fight against Communism and its oppression. On October 16, 1978, Karol Wojtyla became the 264th pope of the Roman Catholic Church, and now called himself John Paul II.
The "Polish Pope" himself made history with the third longest papacy ever. He made his triumphant papal return to Poland in June, 1979, confronted liberation theology, survived the assassination attempt on himself in 1981 by Mehmet Ali Agca (who he later forgave in 1983) and used his influence to help bring both Communist and Right-Wing Totalitarian regimes, such as Alfredo Stroessner's dictatorship in Paraguay, to their knees. Afterwards, he expressed distress over materialism and unprincipled capitalism in his native Poland and denounced the sexual abuse of children that was brought to his attention in 2002, saying that "every sin can be forgiven, but by God, not by me".
The ABC film treated the topic of Catholicism differently from some expectations. The film made no attempt to focus on the Holy Scriptures, but rather to focused the devotion of John Paul II to his faith.
Production took place in Lithuania and partly in Rome. Because Benedict XVI had already given Vatican filming rights to CBS for its portrayal of the life of Pope John Paul II, production for the film scenes which play in the Vatican were done on sets.