POPE JOHN PAUL II
His Life and Legacy
Review by Mark Wiechman
John Paul II (Karol Wojtyla)
Studio: Koch Vision
Picture: Color, full screen
Audio: Dolby Digital Stereo
Features: See Review
Release Date: September 7, 2004
joined to sacrifice constitutes the most powerful force in human history."
In the 1940's, the Nazis cut a swath of blood through
Eastern Europe, targeting Poland in particular because of its access to the sea
and its significant Jewish population. A
young man who wore wooden shoes while working all day in a quarry was secretly
attending seminary at night. One
day he was hit by a truck from behind and knocked unconscious.
A Nazi soldier of all people found him and took him to a residence so he
could receive medical attention and recover.
He did, and continued in his work and studies.
Nazis hated Catholics almost as much as Jews, especially priests and
seminarians. Had the Fuhrer known that his soldier saved the life of a
future Pope, how would he have felt about that, I wonder...
Karol Wojtyla lost almost every close relative or friend in
his youth before he was ordained a priest.
It is not surprising that he leaned on his faith and was strengthened by
it. His rise in the church was
meteoric, and I have always wondered if he somehow saw the hand of God in giving
him tragedy and victory in equal parts. After
ordination in 1946, he was awarded not one but two doctorates, taught school,
and actually worked as a pastor before becoming a bishop and eventually a
While there have been many fine leaders of the church, most
of them were never actually pastors and none in memory ever worked for a living.
They were usually diplomats or administrators for most of their lives.
I am sure that part of the reason for the success of his papacy is that
Karol actually had to do manual labor, had hands-on experience as a pastor, and
confronted the evils of Nazism and Communism face to face.
He exhorted time and time again in his letters to not be afraid, but to
pray incessantly to God and follow the examples of Jesus, his mother and his
followers for strength. Most of
all, he stressed the value of every human life in every stage or condition,
including members of other faith to whom he reached out over and over again.
History buffs like myself love to ponder how different the
1960's would have been if not for the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy,
Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. How different would the 1980's have been had the attempts on
the lives of President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II been successful?
It makes me cringe just to think about it.
Besides the political unrest and the emotional upheaval, would Communism
have taken another few decades to have fallen?
Would more terrorists have taken up the cause to eliminate American and
This ABC special is mostly flattering to the late leader,
though it provides a typical network television presentation of a flawed "rock-star"
leader with its lavish panoramic views of him speaking before tens of thousands
of believers. It also includes the
politically correct feminist view of him as being "good for the world but not
for the church" presumably because he did not ordain women, and ignores the fact
that more women have higher posts in the Vatican than ever before.
ABC seems to feel that they cannot just report the facts but must also
present opinions on each side, as if this were the editorial page and not a
On the other hand, the portion dealing with the history of
his life is excellent and on par with other cable specials and toward the end a
probably accurate analysis reaches an uncomfortable but somewhat reasonable
conclusion: John Paul II's papacy
accomplished so many things, yet he did not confront the American crisis until
it had already festered and alienated so many Catholics, which seems
contradictory for a priest who has expected such theological orthodoxy, and
encouraged the advancement of women, yet has not expected these things from his
own priests nor granted women the right to be ordained.
Possibly his personal charisma and insistence on tight control from Rome
caused the church to enter a holding pattern toward the end of his life and
The one really annoying problem with the disc is that there
are no chapters at all, so you pretty much have to watch it all the way through
or not at all.
Mostly stock television footage which is entirely
Normal television stereo with good balance which serves the
The featurettes are nice enough but very short, only a few
minutes each. They include Good
Morning America's 2003 visit to the Vatican during John Paul II's 25th
Anniversary Jubilee, Diane Sawyer's tour of the Vatican apartments, and Bill
Blakemore's comments on the 1978 election.