Former Speaker Highlights John Paul II in Documentary
By Edward Pentin
ROME, JUNE 4, 2009 (Zenit.org).- An event which took place 30 years ago this week would change the world forever.
Over just nine days, from June 2-10, 1979, John Paul II made what was probably his most historic apostolic trip, a pilgrimage back to his native Poland.
He landed in communist Warsaw on the eve of Pentecost, and went on to give 37 speeches and homilies that articulated what most Poles had felt for years: that Poland was a Catholic nation, cursed with a communist state. In doing so, he unleashed a spiritual and political revolution that would eventually free Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union from the shackles of Marxist rule.
In particular, it led to Poland's communist government agreeing to recognize the legality of "Solidarność" - the "Solidarity" trade union movement. Together with the help of international political leaders and the Church, it would become the leading force in the collapse of the communist regime.
Now, 30 years on, a group of filmmakers led by the American politician Newt Gingrich and his wife Callista, are making a 90-minute documentary on that momentous papal pilgrimage. Called "Nine Days that Changed the World," and set for release in the fall, the film aims to take the viewer through those pivotal events, but also to lay out the context of the visit. The program begins with John Paul's election and goes on to make brief references to Karol Wojtyla's life, first under Nazism, then Stalinism, and his vocation to the priesthood.
Last week, as the filmmakers visited Rome to shoot footage of St. Peter's basilica, I spoke with Kevin Knoblock, the program's writer, producer and director, to find out more. The idea for the documentary, he said, came after he and the Gingriches had made a recent film on Ronald Reagan. "When doing that film, we saw the three key players in the founding of the Solidarity movement," he explained. "Reagan had a huge influence, also Thatcher, but most importantly, John Paul II."
The crew had already filmed in various places on John Paul II's 1979 pilgrimage including Krakow, Auschwitz, Czestochowa and Victory Square in Warsaw -- the location of a huge papal Mass that attracted 250,000 people.
John Paul II's famous motto -- "Be Not Afraid" -- was, Knoblock explained, not just an exhortation to be unafraid of opening one's arms to Christ, "but also to be unafraid of the changes and challenges that will come ahead -- the challenges of the Soviet regime and totalitarianism."
He recalled how nine out of 10 Poles heard or saw the Pope speak during those nine short days, and how every effort the regime made to try to prevent the pilgrimage from taking place almost comically backfired.
In its promotional material, the filmmakers say the program will show how John Paul II "helped the Poles find their courage and reclaim their culture." Moreover, they say the documentary aims to express the Pope's message that contrary to the lies of Nazism and communism, "authentic human freedom is only possible through the truth of Jesus Christ."
Such a momentous time continues to be relevant today, Knoblock said. "There's always a need to remember what can happen under authoritarian regimes, always important to remember freedom and religious freedom, and John Paul II certainly brought that to the people of Poland."
The documentary will eventually be available on DVD in English, Polish, Spanish, Portuguese, and French. For more information, visit: http://ninedaysthatchangedtheworld.com/
Thoughts in Solitude - Thomas Merton
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” † † †"Your way of acting should be different from the world's way"...Rule of St. Benedict.
-Thoughts in Solitude
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