Pope John Paul II (miniseries)

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Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II DVD2.jpg
Written by John Kent Harrison
Directed by John Kent Harrison
Starring Jon Voight
Cary Elwes
James Cromwell
Ben Gazzara
Christopher Lee
Original language(s) English
Running time 200 min (2 parts)
Distributor CBS
Original release 4 & 7 December 2005 (USA)

Pope John Paul II is a 2005 television miniseries dramatizing the life of Pope John Paul II (Karol Józef Wojtyła) from his early adult years in Poland to his death on 2 April 2005 at age 84.

The miniseries 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, ages 19-58. 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 miniseries opens in 1981 with the Pope John Paul II assassination attempt, then flashes back to the young Karol "Lolek" Wojtyla, who survives World War II by working in Kraków's Zakrzowek quarry and Solvay's chemical plant to avoid deportation to Germany while secretly smuggling bread to his Jewish friend, "Roman" (Jerzy Kluger) before Roman's arrest and deportation to a Nazi death camp, and secretly embraces the illicit Theatre of Poland to keep Polish culture alive. Later, Wojtyla accepts a calling to study for the priesthood and joins an underground seminary in 1942, involving himself in the Polish Resistance movement. In 1945, the war ends with the Soviet occupation that later becomes Poland's Communist takeover. In 1946, Wojtyla is ordained a priest while the Communists are hunting down and eliminating anybody who had any ties to the former Home Army and/or Polish government in exile as enemies of their regime and planning Nowa Huta as their new, religion-free "city 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 in Niegowic. In 1949, he is transferred to St. Florian's church in Krakow, where he also counsels Jagiellonian University students. Sapieha dies in 1951, Wojtyla is appointed social ethics professor at Catholic University of Lublin in 1956 and in 1958, the Holy See appoints him Kraków's auxiliary bishop—Poland's youngest bishop ever.

In 1959, Wojtyla ends the decade by holding Nowa Huta's first Mass outdoors on Christmas Eve in the newly built "city without God". Afterwards, he places a huge wooden cross in one of Nowa Huta's empty fields, replacing it every time the Communists pull it down, leads an unusual procession of the Black Madonna's empty picture frame through Krakow's streets when public displays of religious images were illegal and attends all four Vatican II sessions, where he impresses many influential foreign cardinals with his charisma, multilingualism and viewpoints. After becoming Kraków's archbishop in 1963, he is reunited with Holocaust survivor Jerzy Kluger at the Vatican in 1964, and meets Roman's wife, Sophia. In 1967, Wojtyla becomes a cardinal himself by Pope Paul VI and returns to Poland as Karol Cardinal Wojtyla, miraculously curing a bone marrow cancer Nazi experiment victim by praying 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 papacy if he is elected—for Poland's sake.

Part 2: (7 December 2005)

Opening on October 16, 1978 with deadlocked balloting between Italian cardinals Benelli and Siri, Wojtyla wins the papal election as the first non-Italian pope since Adrian VI in 1522, naming himself John Paul II. In his Papal inauguration speech, he says "be not afraid", causing Brezhnev to decree that Wojtyla is "no friend of Marxism". Soon afterwards, he performs papal mediation in the Beagle conflict, receives Soviet foreign minister Andrei Gromyko at the Vatican, writes his first papal encyclical, Redemptor hominis, and visits Mexico in January, 1979 as one of his early foreign papal trips, where he is seen by millions for that year's Latin American Episcopal Conference in Puebla, despite Mexico's anticlerical constitution. After returning from Mexico, he is visited again at the Vatican by Kluger and his wife and daughter, makes his first papal visit to his native Poland in June, 1979, with audiences also in the millions and then visits the United States, all in the same year. He supports Polish Solidarity in 1980 when it is formed and receives its founder and leader, Lech Walesa at the Vatican. The 1981 assassination attempt occurs but without any flashbacks to past years and instead a present-day voice-over of his forgiveness of the shooting. After his recovery, Pope John Paul II appoints Cardinal Ratzinger Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, receives U.S. President Ronald Reagan at the Vatican in 1982 and in 1983, visits Poland again to meet with newly-released Walesa just before Walesa wins that year's Nobel Peace Prize, and prays with a Communist official and wavering Catholic, "Czerney", who was secretly happy about Wojtyla's election itself, and ends the year by visiting his failed assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca, inside Rebibbia prison to personally forgive him. In 1984, he appoints Joaquin Navarro-Valls director of the Holy See Press Office, announces World Youth Day in 1985, has a late-decade dinner with Kluger and other friends who discuss Gorbachev's glasnost and perestroika and their possible meanings for Poland and ends the decade by watching the downfall of East bloc Communism in the Revolutions of 1989.

During the 1990s, however, Pope John Paul II was unable to stop the Invasion of Kuwait and its resulting Gulf War. He responds to the abortion debate with his Letter to Women encyclical and his book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, becomes a best-seller. Later that decade, he suffers from advanced Parkinson's Disease but resists cutbacks on his activities. In response to his own suffering, he writes his Evangelium Vitae encyclical as his opposition to a worldwide culture of death and keeps trying to improve Christian–Jewish reconciliation and Holy See–Israel relations and speaks of a "gospel of suffering" on the 20th anniversary of his papacy. He ends the second millennium on Christmas Eve, 1999 with the Great Jubilee's opening of St. Peter's Basilica's holy door, starts the third millennium in 2000 with his Israeli papal debut and apologies for the Church's sins committed during its history, watches the 9-11 attacks in 2001 with horror and in 2002, addresses summoned American Catholic leaders about another horror-the appalling Catholic sex abuse scandal. His last Easter and last public appearance are both in late March, 2005, then his death is announced on April 2, 2005, with a voice-over of his last requests and a montage of earlier events amid the end credits and main film score.


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