Pope Asks, "Quo Vadis?"

John Paul II Comments on New Polish Version of Film

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VATICAN CITY, AUG. 31, 2001 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II on Thursday attended the world premiere of the new Polish version of the film “Quo Vadis?”

At the end of the viewing in Paul VI Hall, the Holy Father addressed the audience in Italian, and then thanked all those connected with the production of the film in Polish.

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I want to express my profound gratitude this evening to all those who have made possible this first viewing of a work, which is significant in so many aspects. First of all, I congratulate the director, Mr. Jerzy Kawalerowicz, and the producer, Mr. Miroslaw Slowinski, for having produced a work of great inspiration, which reflects the timelessness of Henryk Sienkiewicz´s novel, written more than a century ago, which merited him the Nobel Prize in 1905.

This new cinematographic adaptation was undertaken on the occasion of the year 2000. In a certain sense, during the Great Jubilee, Christ walked again on the streets of Rome and of the whole world. And we repeated to him the words of the Apostle Peter, quoted by St. Ambrose (Serm. c. Auxentium, 13): “Domine, quo vadis? Lord, where are you going?” And Jesus answers us, as he did then: “Venio iterum crucifigi. I come to be crucified again,” namely, I come to renew my gift of salvation to all men, at the dawn of the third millennium. From this point of view, the intention of the director takes on a profound meaning, to rethink Peter´s question as addressed to contemporary man: “Quo vadis, homo? Man, where are you going? Are you going to meet Christ, or are you following other ways, that take you far from Him and from yourself?

This question strikes us enormously, considering that the place in which we find ourselves at this moment is precisely the one in which, about 2,000 years ago, some of the events narrated in the novel and the film “Quo Vadis?” took place. Indeed, we are in the area of Nero´s Circus, where not a few Christians suffered martyrdom, including St. Peter. The obelisk is the mute witness of those tragic and glorious events, that same obelisk that was then found in the middle of the circus and that, since the 16th century, stands in the center of St. Peter´s Square, heart of the Catholic world. At the top of the obelisk is the Cross, a reminder that heaven and earth will pass away, with human empires and kingdoms, but Christ remains: He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

[At this point, after speaking in Italian, the Holy Father addressed the audience in Polish.]

Many thanks to all here present for this special evening, above all the producers of the film: director Jerzy Kawalerowicz, the very fine actors, and those who in any way have contributed to the completion of this work.

The critics will soon make an artistic evaluation of the film. I only wish to thank you for the care with which the film was made — care not only for Sienkiewicz´s masterpiece, but especially for the Christian tradition, from which it is born. It is not possible to understand the image of the Church and of Christian spirituality today without referring to the religious endeavors of men who, enthused by the “Good News” of Jesus Christ, became his witnesses. One must return to this drama, which was experienced in their souls, in which human fear and superhuman courage were confronted, the desire to live, and the will to be faithful until death, the sense of loneliness in face of impassive hatred and at the same time the experience of the power that flows from the close, invisible presence of God and of the common faith of the nascent Church. One must return to that drama, in order to ask oneself the question: What of that drama is verified in me? The film “Quo Vadis?” makes it possible to return to this tradition of overwhelming trials and helps one find oneself.

Once again, I thank you all.

Again I thank those who have offered and organized this evening´s premiere, and I impart to all and to your dear ones a heartfelt apostolic blessing.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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