Film Shows How Karol Wojtyla Was Prepared for Papacy

To Be Shown at Vatican

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 7, 2005 (Zenit.org).- A TV miniseries to be shown April 14 in Paul VI Hall explains how Karol Wojtyla’s Polish past prepared him to become John Paul II.

The miniseries, scheduled to be broadcast April 18-19 in Italy, is based on a work by journalist Gianfranco Svidercoschi, a friend of John Paul II’s, and is entitled “Karol, A Man Who Became Pope.”

Svidercoschi, a former assistant editor of L’Osservatore Romano who now works for the Roman newspaper Il Tempo, told ZENIT: “From the beginning I understood that the secret of this pontificate was in Karol Wojtyla’s Polish years. I understood it even better in 1996, when I worked with the Pope on the book ‘Gift and Mystery,’ on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of his priesthood.

“Then I also understood this Pope better. There is a phrase in that book that says something like this: ‘I have known Nazism and later Communism from within, that is, the extermination and concentration camps and the gulags. … In this way, my sensibility can be understood for the cause of the human person and his rights.'”

“All the 20th-century Popes spoke against war and in favor of the rights of man, but perhaps none did so with the knowledge of cause of John Paul II. He lived in the ‘first person’ the totalitarianisms of the past century,” explained Svidercoschi.

“In fact, the film begins with the outbreak of the Second World War, on September 1, 1939 — the invasion of Poland,” he said. “Then Karol Wojtyla escaped with his father on foot to the East, fleeing from the Nazis. When they reached the San river, they saw Polish soldiers who cried out to them: ‘Go back, go back, the Soviets are arriving!’

“This is why he was such a credible witness when he spoke of peace, and for this reason his pontificate was characterized by the defense of the dignity of the human person, of the rights of man. To understand his pontificate one must understand what he lived through in Poland.”

The film’s script is based essentially on the work Svidercoschi had done to suggest to John Paul II the chapters of the book “Gift and Mystery.”

“I did not do as Vittorio Messori, who wrote the questions for the book ‘Crossing the Threshold of Hope,'” the journalist explained, referring to the Pope’s 1994 best seller. “In fact, I wrote a sort of script so that the Pope could recall those years.

“For example, I recounted how one morning in the autumn of 1943, Karol Wojtyla, wearing clogs, went across Krakow to see the rector of the seminary and tell him: ‘I want to be a priest.’ Then I asked him: ‘Holiness, why did you decide to be a priest?’ The Pope responds in the book.”

In the end, it was decided to publish only what the Pope had written, putting aside the introductions of context. This is why John Paul II thanked Svidercoschi for his help in the Introduction. The Vatican Secretariat of State asked the journalist to present it to the press.

The film was made by producer Pietro Valsecchi’s Tau 2 Film company.

Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, the Pope’s secretary, asked Father Pawel Ptasznik, of the Polish section of the Vatican Secretariat of State, to see the film and suggest modifications if necessary. However, the revision does not imply the Vatican’s official approval.

The actors are in the main Poles and Italians. Polish actor Piotr Adamczyk plays Karol Wojtyla.

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