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. 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 while secretly embracing the illicit Theatre of Poland to keep Polish culture alive. Wojtyla accepts a calling to study for the priesthood and joins an underground seminary, involving himself in the Polish Resistance movement. In 1945, the war ends with the Soviet occupation and eventual Communist takeover of Poland. In 1946, Wojtyla is ordained a priest while the Communists hunt down and eliminate anybody with any ties to the Home Army and/or Polish government in exile during the war and start laying plans for building Nowa Huta as their new churchless "city without God". 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 St. Florian's church in Krakow, where he also is a counselor to students at Jagiellonian University. Sapieha dies in 1951. In 1956, Wojtyla is appointed ethics professor at the Catholic University of Lublin. In 1958, the Holy See appoints him Kraków's auxiliary bishop—Poland's youngest bishop ever and in 1959, ends the decade by holding Nowa Huta's first Mass outdoors on Christmas Eve in the Communists' newly completed "city without God".

After leading an unusual procession of the Black Madonna's empty picture frame through Krakow, Wojtyla attends all four Vatican II sessions, where he impresses many influential foreign cardinals with his charisma, multilingualism and viewpoints, both before and during his term as Kraków's archbishop. After becoming a cardinal in 1967 by Pope Paul VI, Wojtyla returns to Poland as Karol Cardinal Wojtyla, and miraculously cures a bone marrow cancer victim by praying to Padre Pio. Pope 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 is elected—for Poland's sake.

Part 2: (7 December 2005)

Opening on October 16, 1978 with deadlocked balloting, 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 Soviet leaders to decide that Wojtyla is "no friend of Marxism". Afterwards, in 1979, he performs papal mediation in the Beagle conflict between Argentina and Chile, receives Soviet foreign minister Andrei Gromyko at the Vatican, writes his first papal encyclical—Redemptor hominis—and visits Mexico as one of his earlier foreign papal trips-where he is seen by millions-for that year's Latin American Episcopal Conference in Puebla. He then makes his first papal visit to Poland with audiences also in the millions and afterwards to the United States. He supports Polish Solidarity and receives Lech Walesa at the Vatican. The 1981 assassination attempt occurs. After his recovery, Pope John Paul II appoints Cardinal Ratzinger Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, after which he is visited by U.S. President Ronald Reagan in 1982 and in December 1983, visits his failed assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca inside Rebibbia prison to personally forgive him. In December 1984, he appoints Joaquin Navarro-Valls director of the Holy See Press Office, announces World Youth Day in 1985 and witnesses the downfall of East bloc Communism in 1989.

During the 1990s, Pope John Paul II fails to stop the Invasion of Kuwait and its following Gulf War. He responds to the abortion debate with his Letter to Women encyclical. His book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, becomes a best-seller. Later that decade, he suffers from increasing symptoms of Parkinson's Disease but keeps a busy schedule. In response to his own suffering, he writes his Evangelium Vitae encyclical as opposition to a worldwide culture of death and keeps trying to improve Christian–Jewish reconciliation and Holy See–Israel relations. In 2000, he starts the third millennium by apologizing for the Church's sins committed during its history, watches the 9-11 attacks in 2001 with horror and in 2002, addresses American cardinals about the "appalling" Catholic sex abuse scandal. His last Easter and last public appearance is shown 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 closing credits and main film score.


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