A Pope’s Tears
Benedict touched by John Paul II film
BY FATHER ALFONSO AGUILAR, LC
April 30-May 6, 2006 Issue | Posted 5/1/06 at 10:00 AM
The Polish nun was the first to speak. “Holy Father, you are still recovering,” she said. “We are concerned about Your Holiness.”
“I, too,” the Pope replied, “am concerned about my holiness.”
This funny scene from the Italian movie “Karol, Un Papa Rimasto Uomo” (Karol, a Pope Who Remained a Man) evoked to the viewers John Paul’s most outstanding characteristic: his fidelity to God’s plan.
On March 30, Pope Benedict XVI and
5,000 people watched the premiere of this film in the
Starring Piotr Adamczyck — who sat next to the Pope during the preview — the 2½-hour movie was produced by the Italian studios Taodue and Mediaset. It is the second segment of a two-part series. The first part, Karol, a Man Who Became Pope, ends with the Polish cardinal’s election to the See of Peter. Benedict watched the first segment in the same hall on May 20, 2005.
You could tell the Pope was looking forward to this screening. He arrived at 5:45 p.m. — 15 minutes before scheduled — with a big smile. He sat on a white chair in the center of the hall, as the lights went off and weeping people were seen on the screen praying the Rosary in St. Peter’s Square at night.
Then we see John Paul in his deathbed on April 2, 2005. In a quick flashback, he recalls the solemn inauguration of his pontificate some 26 years earlier. An energetic John Paul invites all peoples to “open the doors to Christ.”
Scriptwriter Gian Franco Svidercoschi and director Giacomo Battiato magnificently portrayed the late Pope’s capacity to endure suffering and give himself to every person.
The Pope travels to countries
devastated by war, social injustice and poverty, as we see, in brilliant
flashbacks, Bishop Oscar Romero’s assassination in his cathedral during
John Paul is deeply moved by the
destruction of the
Particularly touching are his
visits to African people infected by AIDS and to the dying in Mother Teresa’s
The well-depicted clash between
the Polish Pope and the leaders of the
“Petrified, as if we were present, we heard again the shots of the tragic attempt in St. Peter’s Square on May 13, 1981,” commented Benedict after the preview.
John Paul’s agony that May marked only the beginning of a long chain of physical sufferings. We see him breaking his femur and his right arm and hardly breathing. His personal doctor, Renato Buzzonetti, provided the filmmakers with many inside stories, such as the way the tracheotomy was performed in John Paul’s throat to allow him to breathe.
John Paul is shown, above all, as a man concerned for every person. From day one in office, he tries to learn the name of the first Swiss Guard he meets. In his audiences and trips, he is attentive to individual stories.
The images reminded me of the days you could shake hands with the Holy Father in the midst of thousands of people — he looked at you as if you were the only one there. I believe he never saw “crowds” of people. He saw, rather, many souls staying together.
The film brings out the special
relationship between John Paul II and Mother Teresa of
At one point, a prominent cardinal
warns the Holy Father about the French bishops’ fear that the 1997 World Youth
Day to be held in
“In one of my trips to
In the next scene, he tells the
same story to one million youth gathered before the
In this film, Benedict XVI said in his remarks afterward, “stands out the figure of a tireless prophet of hope and peace, who traveled the roads of the planet to communicate the Gospel to everyone.”
Most watchers couldn’t restrain themselves from weeping. After the last two scenes, showing the Pope dying and Cardinal Ratzinger celebrating the funeral, we clapped for two minutes. Benedict also clapped, tears silently rolling down his cheeks.
John Paul II became a man for all seasons precisely because he was holy. That’s what the real story of Karol Wojtyla teaches us.
“May our beloved Pope accompany us from on high,” Benedict concluded, “and obtain for us from the Lord the grace to be always faithful, like him, to our mission.”
Legionary Father Alfonso Aguilar teaches philosophy at
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