“Pope John Paul II” Movie review by Sara Francis
The movie Pope John Paul II (Ignatius Press, 2005) is a very accurate production following
young Karol Wojtyla from his early years in Poland through his final days as our pope. Actors, Cary Elwes (as young Karol) and Jon Voight (as Pope John Paul II), did a tremendous job portraying our beloved Saint.
In the film, young Karol Wojtyla expressed his deep love for God, Poland, the outdoors and the theater. As a teenager, he would perform and practice theater productions, with dreams of one day becoming an actor. He was loved by his friends who looked to him for guidance. As he got older he began discerning the priesthood. Once the Nazis invaded Poland, everything began to change. Wojtyla watched as many people, even some of his closest friends, were taken away to German boot camps. The sight of this broke his heart, and filled the hearts of some of his friends with anger. One night, a close companion urged young Karol to accompany him in killing off some Nazi guards. Wojtyla went with him, but only in attempt to stop his close friend from committing this crime. He was not entirely successful. His comrade killed a few men before they heard the sounds of trucks. While they were fleeing, Wojtyla did not notice an incoming vehicle, and was hit. Immediately, he was taken to the hospital where he stayed and recovered for two weeks. He believed that his survival of this incident was the confirmation of his vocation to the priesthood.
Because the Nazis forbade the ordination of new priests, and almost everything Catholic-related, Karol Wojtyla had to begin his ordination training in secret. But, thanks to God, the Germans fled the city of Krakow, where Wojtyla lived, on the night of January 17, 1945. After this, the seminarians were free to finish their training without fear of being caught by the enemy. On November 1, 1946 Karol Wojtyla was ordained a priest. Twelve years later, he was ordained a bishop, and not too long after he was made Cardinal, and participated in the Papal conclave of Pope John Paul I.
Due to the sudden death of Pope John Paul I, the Cardinals believed that God wanted to show
the world that not all holy popes had to be Italian. Thus Karol Jozef Wojtyla was elected, and became Pope John Paul II.
Throughout his years as Saint Peter’s successor, Pope John Paul II showed great charity, compassion, and many other saintly virtues, especially forgiveness. His example inspired and encouraged the entire world, particularly when Mehmet Ali Agca attempted to assassinate him on May 13, 1981. Due to the grace of God and His Blessed Mother, Pope John Paul II survived, recovered, and forgave his assassin in person. He was the Pope of the youth. Millions of teens looked up to Papa. He told them to be lights in the world.
Pope John Paul II continued his life of service up until his final days. As he was dying, tens of thousands of people waited and prayed in Saint Peter’s square. Some of them even stayed all night in quiet and moving vigils. On April 2, 2005, our beloved pope passed away due to circulatory collapse and septic shock.
This movie showed only a taste of Saint John Paul II’s life. He did the will of God, even when it was not easy. He took what God gave him with grace and humility. No matter what, he would always help a person who needed it, whether physically or spiritually. He means a whole lot to my family and me, especially to my youngest sister who was born 25 days after his death. When she was born, my parents consecrated her to him. The day of his canonization was done on her birthday, which happened to fall on Divine Mercy Sunday. She loves Saint John Paul II, and already believes, at only ten years old, that John Paul II will be her confirmation name.