frontline: pope john paul II - the millennial pope

transcript: rebroadcast


Program Air Date: April 2, 2005

Original Air Date: September 28, 1999


NARRATOR: The death of Pope John Paul II marks the end of a dramatic and controversial chapter in the history of the Catholic Church, and the conclusion of the life story of one of the towering figures of our time. The story of the Polish pope, who brought down communism.

ERIC MARGOLIS, "The Toronto Sun": He slew a great evil.

NARRATOR: For more than a quarter century, he traveled the world's stage, a lonely prophet shaking his fist at what the modern world had become.

IRENA ALBERTI, Editor, "La Pensee Rousse," Friend: The Pope believes that the 20th century is the most evil of all of mankind's history.

NARRATOR: The story of John Paul II is the story of a man at war with the 20th century.

JOHN PAUL II: It is we who must choose between evil and good.

ROBERTO SURO, "The Washington Post": The question is, did he see something that many of us are missing? Is he lost, or are we lost for not hearing him

NARRATOR: Tonight, in a rebroadcast of its award-winning biography, FRONTLINE remembers Pope John Paul II


Produced and Directed by Helen Whitney

Written by Helen Whitney & Jane Barnes


VOICE FUGUE: He's a king. He's the chief priest of the Christian Church ... There is something that happens when we see this Pope. I'm seeing Peter ... John Paul II came to the papacy at the age of 58, bringing with him more expectations, more hopes, more faith in his capacity to do something utterly transformative than any single public figure in our century.

ROBERTO SURO, "The Washington Post": When Karol Wojtyla was elected, he was created as the first modern man to become Pope. He was the skier, the actor, the playwright, the poet, the man who had lived through World War II, the man who knew communism, the man who seemed to know the world around him and to have swum in it, to have lived in it.

ERIC MARGOLIS, "The Toronto Sun": Here was a very masculine figure, a reincarnation of the warrior Popes of the Renaissance, a man who wasn't a soft Italian priest who'd come out of the perfumed shadows of a church somewhere. But here was a vibrant and macho personality.

MARCO POLITI, Italian Journalist, CoAuthor, "His Holiness: John Paul II": He was the first Pope in history where we see his feet. We see his brown loafers. In Italy we didn't never see the feet of Paul VI, of John XXIII. It was always very high. And now we see a man who counts, who stands very firmly.

Prof. EAMON DUFFY, Vatican Historian, Cambridge Univ.: On one occasion he marched in sopping wet, skirted up his cassock, took his shoes and socks off, squeezed the water out of the socks and hung them on the radiator. And he said "Gentlemen, shall we get down to business?" And they were just so entranced by a bishop with balls.

NARRATOR: In the beginning, he did seem to be a Pope for our time, but he would soon emerge as a man at war with the 20th century, a man of extremes provoking extreme reactions.

ROBERT STONE, Novelist: I really feel sorry for, you know, my brothers and sisters, my former brother and sisters in the Catholic church, because this Pope is killing them. He's destroying their religion. He's destroying their belief, and he's destroying their faith.

DALE O'LEARY, "Canticle" Magazine: He has taken every question this age asks, and he has answered it, and he has answered it fully. It calls out to the heart. A thousand years from now, people will look back and they will say this was the age of John Paul the Great.

Sister NANCY HYNES, St. Benedict's Monastery, St. Josephs, MN: John Paul is a very holy, charismatic man who is doing a very good job of bringing down the church as we know it.

JAMES CARROLL, Author, "American Requiem," Former Priest: Well, the man is nothing but contradictions. He's the most political Pope in modern history, but he won't allow priests to be in politics. He is the great protector of the church, yet seems blind to the way the priest sex abuse scandal under minds the spiritual and financial health of the church. He is broadly compassionate, yet seems more concerned with protecting the institution than with consoling the victims of priestly abuse or changing the clerical culture that made it possible. He is a defender of the marginalized and the oppressed yet he is deaf to the voices of gay people who want only justice. He is devoted to the blessed Virgin Mary. She's at the center of his piety. But he's suspicious of women as equals. He's contemptuous of, especially, contemporary consumerist culture, and yet he's the master of the consumerist media and has become a world celebrity because of it.

He's an anticommunist, a man who succeeded in helping to bring down Soviet communism, and yet he's profoundly suspicious of democracy. He's a man of tremendous modern sensibility, capable of being at home with rock musicians and young people, and yet he has staked everything on protecting a view of the church that has it roots in the Middle Ages. He's a king, and he's trying to protect his kingship, and yet he's obviously, very clearly, a man who only wants to be at the service of the world.

NARRATOR: The story of John Paul II is a journey through the 20th century, its triumphs and its horrors, its profound changes and deep uncertainties. It is a journey that says as much about us as it does about him.


NARRATOR: To understand this pope, we must understand where he came from. The Polish landscape bleeds history. Century after century, under an unchanging sun, these meadows brutally changed hands: Polish, Austrian, German, Russian, finally Polish again.

VOICE FUGUE: Poland was partitioned for 125 years ... The past is ever present ... The Poles live in time more than in space ... There is this sense of having been wronged by history ... There is a kind of moodiness, a certain undertone of sadness, melancholy ... This is not a very happy country. The landscape is not very happy ... You're part of a persecuted, rundown, dominated, colonized nation.

NEAL ASCHERSON, Author, "The Struggles for Poland": We think of American history and British history as then, but Polish history is now. They have had such an awful two centuries.

ADAM ZAMOYSKI, Author, "The Polish Way": The salient moments of Poland's past are, for most people, those disasters, the disasters of the last couple of centuries: the disasters of the Second World War, the disasters of the uprising, the whole martyrology of people who were sent off to Siberia and chain gangs and things for being patriotic.

And I think that the Polish psyche, the Polish psychological landscape, is peopled first and foremost with martyrs. I think that the Pope feels the collective experience and the collective suffering of the Polish nation in his bones. And I think that this disposed him to glory in suffering. Poles are quite good at seeing the grandeur and the glory of a complete catastrophe.

NARRATOR: In Poland the dead are not dead. There is an intimacy between the dead and the living. And no other country is so gripped by its Catholicism.

NEAL ASCHERSON: It's a Catholicism which broods on history. Poland is the collective incarnation of Jesus Christ. It is the will of God that Poland should be put to death. It should go down into the darkness, and then on the third day to rise again, to be resurrected and to bring about the salvation of all nations through its sacrifice.

The nation was sacred.

Prof. EAMON DUFFY: Religion is more than just religion. It's a key to who they are.

NARRATOR: Poland's very roads are sacramental byways. Religious processions last for days as Polish priests and pilgrims reenact Christ's birth, his betrayal, his crucifixion. Here, Poland's suffering is given meaning at last.

Prof. EAMON DUFFY: Imagine what it must be like to be a thoroughly modern man with an immense command of languages, quite widely traveled, who reads a great deal, who's thought a great deal, and yet to emerge from a type of Catholicism that seems light years away from modernity. And I think that a lot of what is mysterious to us in his personality is explicable in terms of his attempts to heal that gulf.

NARRATOR: Born in 1920 in the shadow of the great Tatra mountains in southern Poland, Karol Wojtyla lived his childhood days enthralled to the green countryside and the distant white peaks. He grew up in Wadowice, a small market town at the foot of the mountains, with his mother, father and older brother, Edmund, in a modest apartment just across the square from the church.

HALINA KWIATKOWSKA, Childhood Friend: [through interpreter] Wadowice before the war was a town of 10,000 people. It is situated in the mountains not far from Krakow, about 50 kilometers. We were always running to church. And in church we were praying, usually to the Virgin Mary. Then again, at 1:00 o'clock, we were meeting on the main market square.

EUGENIUSZ MROZ, Childhood Friend: [through interpreter] Every time we got together, we used to sing these songs from our youth highland songs, camp songs, scout songs. His voice was very beautiful, and he would tap his foot to add a beat to the songs.

STANISLAW JURA, Childhood Friend: [through interpreter] When he played goalie, he was like a lion in the front of the cage. He was handsome. He was wellbuilt and very athletic.

SZCZEPAN MOGIELNIECKI, Childhood Friend: [through interpreter] We admired his discipline, the discipline that was implanted in Karol by his father

NARRATOR: Karol was devoted to his parents. His mother was deeply devout and wanted him to become a priest. She was ailing and fragile, but still the adoring center of his life.

SZCZEPAN MOGIELNIECKI: [through interpreter] Karol's mother died. For him this was a great tragedy because Karol at that time was only 8 years old. I remember that month of May. We were going to church. So she did not see the First Communion of her son, whom she loved very much.

LYNN POWELL, Poet, "Old & New Testaments": We know that when she died he was at school, and his father didn't come himself and sweep the young boy up in his arms and grieve with him and weep with him and tell him how much he loved him and how he was going to be there for him. This didn't happen. The father sent word by the teacher, and the teacher told the boy. And we don't know why that is. We do know that he found out in a public way from someone he was not intimate with that his mother had died. And we know from his classmates that he didn't cry at his mother's funeral.

EUGENIUSZ MROZ: [through interpreter] He impressed us with his inner peace. He believed that this loss was the will of God. Wojtyla's flat was on the second floor, and the rooms were in sequence. His mother's room was never used after her death. The rest of the family used the one other room and the kitchen. Sometimes when Karol was studying, he would take a break, go into her room and pray.

The Holy Father has this special picture, and he always takes it with him wherever he goes. Oh, he never parts with this picture, even when he goes on long pilgrimages. There you can see him as a young child in his mother's arms.

NARRATOR: As an adolescent, Karol Wojtyla began to write poetry. One of his first poems was addressed to his mother, expressing a burden of grief that he had never shared even with his friends.

READER: ["Over This Your White Grave," Karol Wojtyla]

Over this your white grave
the flowers of life in white-
so many years without you-
how many have passed out of sight?

Over this your white grave
covered for years, there is a stir
in the air, something uplifting
and, like death, beyond comprehension.

Over this your white grave
oh, Mother, can such loving cease?
For all his filial adoration
a prayer:
Give her eternal peace-

LYNN POWELL: She'd been dead for 10 years. He was a young man, but you feel in the poem all the burden of those years of longing for her, all the years of unrequited love for his mother. And the poem is quiet, but it builds to this question at the beginning of the last stanza which is really a heartbroken cry: "Over this, your white grave, oh mother, can such loving cease?"

I mean, love, is a it's a burden. It's hurting him so badly, he almost wants it to stop, his love for her. It's this heartbroken question that he cries out. It's a moment of intimacy that, as a reader, I felt moved by to be witness to it.

And what happened in the next line is a complete shutting down, a complete buttoning up of the emotions. It's hard to even say the words "for all his filial adoration, a prayer." You feel that something has immediately gotten exposed and then shut down, that it's not okay for that vulnerability to be hanging out there. And that question, which is probing and expresses confusion and ambivalence it's not okay, that somehow it has to be chastened.

NARRATOR: When Karol was 12, his brother, a brilliant physician, died of scarlet fever. Nine years later he lost his father.

EUGENIUSZ MROZ, Childhood Friend: [through interpreter] Karol came back from work and saw that his father had died. He was stricken and kept saying, "I wasn't there when my mother died. And now I have not been there when my father died." Karol stayed up all night, praying by the bed where his father lay. He showed the same resolute calm, accepting these blows unquestioningly, saying, "This is God's will."

NARRATOR: He was 21 and completely alone in the world.

LYNN POWELL: In the Pope's poems, he talks about how solitude is good because no one can take that away from you. It's a refuge. It's the one last retreat. And if in that solitude you find God, then there's an incredible fulfillment there because if you're in love with God, in this place that is remote and inaccessible, you're really safe.

NARRATOR: Much later, as Pope, his love for these mountains, his passion for Poland, would compel him to return. He said that he had to come back, to find himself. Only here could he touch the truth.

WILTON WYNN, Vatican Correspondent, "Time": It was in June of 1979 that the Pope made his first trip to Poland after being elected Pope. He evoked such a response, especially from the young people. I remember, that night in Poland, the children kept joking with him, and he would joke back with them.

But the most touching moment of that day was when they started singing an old Polish folk song about the mountaineer who loved his mountain so much, but now he's gone and he can't come back. I don't know if there really were tears in the Pope's eyes, but I was sure there were because I there were almost tears in my eyes at that moment, to see this man who is so Polish, so deeply rooted in his homeland, and who had had to give it all up for the rest of his life to come and serve the church in Rome.

The Jews

KONSTANTY GEBERT, Founding Editor, "Midrasz": This is the first bishop of Rome since Saint Peter who grew up among Jews, for whom the Jews are not a theological abstraction or a removed and alien people, but his friends, childhood friends.

GILBERT LEVINE, Conductor, Friend: And he lived in a house with a Jewish landlord, and he played soccer with Jewish kids. Jews were for him his playmates. When the Holocaust murdered those boys, they weren't statistics. They weren't people that he knew at a distance, they were his friends. They were people who were part of his life.

And I have had the profound sense, in all his dealings with me, that there is this incredible gulf there. There is this void there of the people who were killed whom he knew. So when he talks about the Holocaust it it is real. It is palpable.

KONSTANTY GEBERT: For him, the Shoah is not history. He was there. He was present at the scene of the crime. And this has marked him for life. He could not fail to ask, "How could this have happened in Europe after 2,000 years of Christianity?" And he had the moral courage to look into his own faith and the history of his own religion and see there some of the elements that made this possible.

NARRATOR: The trouble between Christians and Jews goes back nearly 2,000 years. Poland's charged and complex place in that history makes the Pope's journey all the more remarkable. Karol Wojtyla was an altar boy in Wadowice when Cardinal Hlond, the head of the Polish church, had his pastoral letter on the Jews read throughout the country.

READER: [Cardinal Hlond's letter] "It is a fact that the Jews deceive, levy interest, and are pimps. It is a fact that the religious and ethical influence of the Jewish young people on Polish people is a negative one. There will be a Jewish problem as long as the Jews are fighting against the Catholic Church, persisting in free thinking, and are the vanguard of godlessness, Bolshevism and subversion."

Rabbi ARTHUR HERTZBERG, Author, Visiting Professor, NYU: The world that young Wojtyla grew up in I remember very vividly because I was a little child within it. Lubachov, the city in which I was born, is not far different from the town some kilometers over in which he was born. My last and most vivid memories of Poland are running repeatedly down through the town square towards the house in which we lived, with these little Polish kids chasing me, wanting to beat me up because I was a Christkiller, calling me "parszywy Zyezie", "Dirty Jew."

NARRATOR: In 1938 Karol Wojtyla moved to Krakow to study Polish literature at the university. He came to love this ancient city of crooked streets, of light and shadow. A year later the Nazis marched into Poland.

Mr. PIOTR PASZKOWSKI,Journalist/ Translator: In the fall of 1939, after the Germans entered Poland, the first victims of the German terror were the Polish intelligentsia. The first mass executions didn't were not those of the Jewish population.

Prof. NORMAN DAVIES, Historian, Oxford Univ.: Wojtyla would have seen the killings, the segregation of the Jewish population from the rest of the population.

HALINA KWIATKOWSKA, Childhood Friend: [through interpreter] We knew about the ghetto. Any person was aware of that. This was everyday life.

NEAL ASCHERSON, Author, "The Struggles for Poland": He saw around him the Jews being destroyed.

Prof. NORMAN DAVIES: Poland was the racial laboratory of the Nazis. This is where they started to put their abhorrent theories into practice.

ADAM ZAMOYSKI, Author, "The Polish Way": The enormity of it. The war was a kind of crime against human dignity. It wasn't the question of how many people got killed, it was how it was being done to them, what was being done to their minds, to them as people. And I think that's a very strong element in the Polish experience of war, and I think that's one that reverberates through the Pope's teachings very strongly. I think he has an incredibly strong sense of the dignity of human beings and how fragile this can be in times of war, any war.

NARRATOR: When the Nazis invaded, they closed the university in Krakow and other institutions in an attempt to destroy Polish culture. Professors were arrested and shot. Karol Wojtyla helped organize a subversive underground theater. He was a leading actor in plays that celebrated Poland's history and language, a form of opposition for which he, too, could have been executed.

HALINA KWIATKOWSKA, Childhood Friend: [through interpreter] Was it dangerous? Yes, of course, it was dangerous, because at that time, when we were meeting it was clandestinely, undercover, in different places. We were not fighting using guns and ammunition. We were fighting using our own words.

LYNN POWELL, Poet, "Old & New Testaments": We know that the Pope as a young man during the war worked in a quarry. It was harsh work. It was backbreaking work. He saw how the men around him suffered. It was a difficult place to keep going and to labor. I thought those poems of that time would somehow be wrestling with the events of that moment in history and in his life. And at first I thought, "But they're not." None of that drama was documented in the poems at all. The poems were celebrating an interior life of being in communion with God. [ Study his poems]

READER: "I thank you for giving the soul a place far removed from the din and clamor where your friend is a strange poverty. You, Immeasurable, take but a little cell. You love places uninhabited and empty."

LYNN POWELL: The world around him is one of absolute loss, absolute unpredictability and evil and uncertainty, so God is a refuge. And the poems seem like a fleeing to God. These lines were written a few miles from Auschwitz, during the darkest moment of human history. He must have been struggling every day with "How do I respond to what is happening around me?"

NARRATOR: Karol Wojtyla's vocation to the priesthood took shape during this dark time. As Pope, he would reflect on this crucial period in his memoir.

READER: [Karol Wojtyla's memoir] "In the face of the spread of evil and the atrocities of the war, the meaning of the priesthood became much clearer to me. It was like an interior illumination. One day I saw this with great clarity: The Lord wants me to become a priest."

LYNN POWELL: People were making different choices. He had friends who had gone into the underground and were building bombs as a violence against the Germans. There were nuns who were forging passports for Jews and ferrying them from hiding place to hiding place. He himself had gone into an underground seminary and was risking his own life by being involved in illicit spiritual activity.

NARRATOR: The war raged on. Neighbors disappeared. Children were marched off. Catholics in Poland and Europe looked to the Vatican for guidance. Could they help? Should they? But Pope Pius XII remained silent. He feared denouncing the Germans would risk more Jewish lives. He privately tried to help Jews, but the Vicar of Christ did not speak out even when the Nazis stormed the Jewish ghetto just across the river from the Vatican.

Prof. GIACOMO SABAN, Univ. of Rome: And this silence was something which I think made the Jews suffer even more because it made them feel that they were abandoned by everybody, even those who kept proclaiming the generous sense of humanity and all those aphorisms that come together with the teaching of Christianity.

NARRATOR: The silence was everywhere. The world turned its back on the Jews. In Poland, all of Warsaw watched as the Nazis set fire to the ghetto. Just outside the ghetto walls, some Poles watched as they rode a carousel the Nazis had built .

ANDRZEJ SZCSZYPIORSKI, Author, Polish Journalist: [through interpreter] I used to pass by the carousel. At the time, they were closing the ghetto down. On one side there was the Aryan side and the carousel. And on the other side there was the ghetto. You could see the houses being torched, the houses aflame. You could hear the screams of the people, the grenades exploding, the machine guns. The smoke was covering the whole city. The sky over Warsaw was dark from the dark smoke.

Dr. MAREK EDELMAN, Warsaw Ghetto Survivor: [through interpreter] I was in the ghetto while it was on fire. I could see people jumping from windows in order to avoid being burned alive. On the other side of the wall, I could hear the carousel going 'round and 'round.

ANDRZEJ SZCSZYPIORSKI: [through interpreter] The girls were screaming and laughing, and the boys were screaming and laughing the fun that they were having against the background of the ghetto dying.

NARRATOR: The image of the carousel haunts the Polish psyche.

READER: ["Campo dei Fiori," Czeslaw Milosz] "I thought of the Campo dei Fiori in Warsaw by the skycarousel one clear spring evening to the strains of a carnival tune. The bright melody drowned the salvos from the ghetto wall, and couples were flying high in the cloudless sky.

"At times, wind from the burning would drift dark kites along, and riders on the carousel caught petals in midair. That same hot wind blew open the skirts of the girls. And the crowds were laughing on that beautiful Warsaw Sunday."

ANDRZEJ SZCSZYPIORSKI: [through interpreter] The image of the carousel is a symbolic one for the epoch. And I think it is symbolic not only for the epoch of the Holocaust, but for the century we've just lived. For evil to occur, to take place, you simply do not have to do anything. It will come of itself. To do good, you have to be active. In other words, you have to do, to act. When nothing is done, evil comes of itself.

Rabbi ARTHUR HERTZBERG, Author, Visiting Professor, NYU: I've asked myself over and over and over again, "How would you have behaved if you had been in Poland during the Holocaust? Would you have defied the Nazis? Would you have gone off into the woods to try to join an underground group? If you had been at Auschwitz, would you have tried to collaborate a little bit or make a few deals to stay alive a little longer?" And I don't know the answer.

And so I think about young Mr. Wojtyla, who is going to become the Pope eventually, but he doesn't know this yet. He lived a quiet life. He did not defy the Nazis in any overt way, and he did not, in any of the stories that have been told, do anything to save Jews.

NARRATOR: When the war was over, 6.5 million Poles were dead, nearly half of them Jews.

NEAL ASCHERSON, Author, "The Struggles for Poland": The devastation was enormous. A fifth of the entire population was killed during the war or died of its consequences.

ANDRZEJ SZCSZYPIORSKI: [through interpreter] In every Polish family someone was killed. There were no tears enough for the Jews.

MAREK HALTER, Filmmaker, "Les Justes": The Jewishness in Poland was killed. Disappeared completely.

Ms. EWA HOFFMAN, Author: There is a sense of the enormous presence of absence.

ANDRZEJ SZCSZYPIORSKI: [through interpreter] I think what you find with the Pope you find among many thinking Poles, the sense of guilt that we have not done as much as we could have done.

Rabbi ARTHUR HERTZBERG: He must be asking himself the question, "Why did you live so quiet a life?" And the proof of it to me is that immediately after the war, as a young priest and then soon a young bishop, he was remarkable, in a Polish church with a still-living, vehement, antiSemitic tradition, for befriending Jews.

He helped get a few kids out of convents and monasteries where their parents had hidden them and then they never came back, helped get them back to their Jewish families. He did a number of things which gave him among the Polish Jews who survived the reputation of a friendly human being.

NARRATOR: Three decades later, October 16, 1978, Karol Wojtyla becomes Pope John Paul II, the first Polish Pope and the first non-Italian to be elected since the 15th century. Within a year he traveled to Auschwitz, bringing his white robes and the power of his office to purify the bloodstained place.

JOHN PAUL II: [subtitles] This sign is a reminder of the country whose sons and daughters were given to extermination.

NARRATOR: It was only the first of his dramatic gestures towards the Jews, a first step in coming to terms with his painful past. He faced that past again in 1985 when a filmmaker a Polish Jew came to the Vatican to interview him for a documentary about gentiles who had helped Jews during the war.

MAREK HALTER, Filmmaker, "Les Justes": I didn't ask him if it's true that he saved Jews, that he helped the Jews, what he did at that time of the war, really. I had testimonies, people, of Stanislaw Gibisch, other people, his Jewish friends, the son of the advocate, of the lawyer, Kluger. But I never ask him.

So when I arrived, he said, "Ah, here you are. You came from Paris?"

"You had a lot of Jewish friends," I asked, "before the war?" He said, "Yes."

I said to him, "And all of them were killed?" And he changed. He said, "Yes. It's horrible. Right. They were killed."

And I told him, "But some of them survived. They were saved." He said, "Danken Gott."

Then I asked him the really question, "And you, Holy Father, you did something for them?" And then his face changed, and he said "I don't believe I-- no. No," he said.

And I was so surprised because, in my mind, I believed that he's going to tell me a story, a story that he was he was preparing the false papers, passports for the Jews, because I heard that, because people told me about that.

And he told me, "No," so I was stopped. I didn't knew what asking more. And the all my interview was stopped, was finished, finished only with this gesture. He took me in his arms like a brother with a very bad, guilty feeling. And I was very frustrated. Very frustrated.

NARRATOR: In April, 1986, John Paul made his historic visit to the Roman synagogue, ready to acknowledge the wounds inflicted on Jews by Christians and to reach out to them as equals, calling them "our elder brothers."

VOICE FUGUE: It was the first time that any Pope had ever gone into the synagogue in Rome ... It was like a sort of apparition ... It was a bold move for the Pope to be in a totally Jewish environment and to pray to a common God ... This was something absolutely unheardof.

MARCO POLITI, Italian Journalist, CoAuthor, "His Holiness: John Paul II": We understood that the presence of the Pope there was putting the seed to the act of repentance.

Rabbi ARTHUR HERTZBERG, Author, Visiting Professor, NYU: This man has gone the journey to unlearning whatever antiSemitism might have been breathed into him, has gone the journey to wanting to make an end of the age-old quarrel with Jews-- not merely the Holocaust, but the whole of the Church tradition of antiSemitism.

NARRATOR: John Paul's repentance was more than symbolic. He supported a powerful pastoral letter which denounced antiSemitism and was read throughout all the churches of Poland.

KONSTANTY GEBERT, Founding Editor, "Midrasz": Anti-Semitism is a sin, a very clear and unambiguous statement he has made time and time again. One cannot be an antiSemite and a Christian at the same time. One has to choose. One of my friends, who happens to be a priest, told me that since the Pope had said this, that antiSemitism is a sin, he has heard people confess it as sin in confession. This is no small thing.

NARRATOR: The pope continued his searching journey for reconciliation. In the year 2000, he placed a prayer of penitence in the crevice of the western wall, during his historic visit to Jerusalem.

However, the Pope's journey towards atonement was not without missteps. Jews were offended by his embrace of Austrian president, Kurt Waldheim, after questions had been raised about his involvement in war crimes. Jews were also troubled by John Paul's choice of saints. Among the Pope's most controversial decisions was the canonization of Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish Franciscan monk who died at Auschwitz.

KONSTANTY GEBERT: Auschwitz was a lesson to humanity that man is nothing, man is manure that just happens to be walking in the light. Kolbe's answer to that was, "This is not true, and I can prove it's not true." And he did. What Kolbe did in Auschwitz, he volunteered to replace a prisoner who was sentenced to death, and died himself.

But Kolbe has a big biography behind him. In interwar Poland, he was the editor-in-chief of an extremely popular Catholic weekly called The Knight of the Immaculate that was an antiSemitic rag that spilled hatred and venom, poisoned the minds and hearts of thousands upon thousands of Catholics who believed in this teaching of hatred, teaching of contempt, because it came from the institutional church, indeed from the Franciscan monks, the very example of love.

Cardinal EDWARD CASSIDY: What he was writing at this time was probably what everyone was saying. You go back to the teaching of contempt that he was probably I've never seen any of his writings. I don't know anything about them, but was he not just writing what people what Catholics were writing and feeling at that time? What we are saying with the saint is, of course, that we believe that that person is in Heaven, in paradise, and that something in a martyr, something in his life it could only be at the last moment that it happened, but that was enough.

KONSTANTY GEBERT: Possibly Father Kolbe changed his mind at Auschwitz when he saw the logical, unavoidable implication to his teachings. I would hope so. Does this annul the teaching of hatred? How many Jews were denied help in Poland hiding from the Nazis because people had read and had believed The Knight of the Immaculate? And this, too, is something that is part of the moral accounting that Father Kolbe probably did in his own heart, although the Catholic Church should have done when declaring him a saint.

NARRATOR: In 1998 the Vatican finally released the Pope's long awaited letter to the Jews, one of the most dramatic documents of his papacy. It declared that the 2,000-year relation between Christians and Jews was a tormented one. It acknowledged the failure of individual Christians to stand against the slaughter of Jews during World War II. It questioned whether anti-Judaic Christian teachings had contributed to the Holocaust. Welcomed by Jews and Christians alike, it was also criticized for not directly condemning the Catholic Church itself. [ Read the Pope's letter to the Jews]


JAMES CARROLL, Author, "American Requiem," Former Priest: The paramount issue is the 2,000-year-long tradition of Christian contempt for Jews. That is what must change. John Paul II understands the importance of this change, I believe. He's been inhibited in his inability to go perhaps even as far with it as he'd like to, I think mostly because he has an idea of the church that doesn't admit easily the idea of change to it, and doesn't admit the idea of failure and of sin.

Prof. EAMON DUFFY, Vatican Historian, Cambridge Univ.: The obvious fact that Catholics have been, in their millions, antiSemitic and that Catholicism has been responsible for many of the atrocities against the Jews and for the whole antiSemitic tradition he knows that, and he's anxious to acknowledge that.

But for him there is an important theological difference between what millions of Catholics have done, the sins they've committed against the Jews, and what the church has done. The church is the spotless bride of Christ and does not commit sins. The institution staffed by sinful individuals does commit sins. But that theological distinction is something that, at the cost of plausibility in the modern world, he's struggling to preserve.

GILBERT LEVINE, Conductor, Friend: An idea was born in my mind. A concert to commemorate the Holocaust, done in Rome, to which the Pope would be invited, would be a wonderful thing to do. I asked my motherinlaw about it, my touchstone in the Holocaust, because if she had said it was not a good idea, I wouldn't have done it. And she said, "If it really could happen it would be unbelievable. It would be a miracle." And I went to Rome, and I raised the issue with his Holiness, and the answer came back in two seconds, "Va avanti" "Go forward."

Where my mother-in-law is from is Kardina, Ostrowa, which is in a direct line from Krakow to Wadowice to the Czech border-- very close. They are from the same part of the world. And when they met, they spoke in Polish. And my mother-in-law looked up at him in a way that only they could talk to each other because only they had lived this experience.

He reached down into her soul, which was seared and charred with the ashes and with the smoke, the way she described the chimney and the and the smell. And she was in Auschwitz for 18 months or 2 years, she wasn't there for a month. And she smelled this, and she lived it. And for him to be able to say, "I know" I mean just, "I know. I understand. I believe you." This was a transforming experience for her.

Rabbi ARTHUR HERTZBERG, Author, Visiting Professor, NYU: He must defend that which he has been called and he believes certainly by divinity itself to serve the Church. And on the other hand, he has to make peace with the wounded people, tortured people, the beatup people as it has never been beaten up in all its history, the Jews the Jews, so many of whom he knew as a child in the town in which he was born, and that Polish town which was full of Jews, some of them his friends. And so there is the Tazhizma. There is the hurt and the heart, I think.


NARRATOR: A visitor to the Kremlin reported that Joseph Stalin once asked dismissively, "How many divisions does the Pope have?" In 1945 Karol Wojtyla was a young seminarian and just starting the long journey that would one day answer Stalin's question.

Prof. NORMAN DAVIES, Historian, Oxford Univ.: In 1945, when the Second World War technically ends in Poland, the incoming Soviet army liberates some groups of people but begins to oppress the general population, in some ways more harshly than it had happened before.

People in the West don't have any idea of the number of people who died after the war. Tens of thousands were rounded up and sent either to the gulag or to prisons in Poland. These totalitarian conditions steamrollered everybody. It threw them on their inner psychological and spiritual resources. And as we know in Poland, that inner resistance proved much stronger than communism itself.

NEAL ASCHERSON, Author, "The Struggles for Poland": The Pope's interest in politics developed quite slowly and late. He came out of the occupation, I think, in a state of not exactly denial, but I think he wanted to withdraw in different senses.

NARRATOR: Young Father Wojtyla did wanted to withdraw into a monastery, but his superiors felt that he had other gifts and sent him into parish life. He led his students on treks into the wilderness. Some of the future leaders of Solidarity were on those camping trips, where they say Wojtyla taught them openness, honesty and intellectual toughness.

MARIE TARNOWSKA, Friend: [through interpreter] He was all man! And as a woman I can say this. He was 100 percent man. But he was not a bachelor looking for girlfriends. He was a Father, but he was also not a priest with a sweet tone of voice and, you know, so pious and shy or selfcontained. No.

Dr. KAROL TARNOWSKI, Friend: [through interpreter] Although he was friendly, he was lonely. Definitely, he was a lonely person. He would leave the group suddenly, going aside and having his prayer time. I remember these times when he was suddenly leaving to concentrate and to pray. Then when he came back, he was charged, charged with a kind of energy, great intensity.

NEAL ASCHERSON: As a priest in extremely difficult times, he had to look at the question, "What was your relationship to the communist state going to be anyway?" What should you do?

You could follow the great Cardinal Wyszynski, the primate. You could go into the complex business of negotiating concessions here in return for some concession from the state there, and be really intensely political but all the time compromising.

Certainly not a pretty sight to the Vatican, who although people don't like to remember that now, the Vatican thought Wyszynski was a collaborator. They poured abuse on him because they thought he was selling out to the communists. Little did they know that, in fact, what he was doing was he was digging the church into a position in which not only it would survive, but of course, it would eventually be much tougher than the communist state.

NARRATOR: 1966 was Poland's millennial year. Primate Wyszynski organized a series of pilgrimages as a display of Catholic strength. He sent Wojtyla, now Archbishop of Krakow, to churches throughout the country.

In this period, Wojtyla developed his political gifts. The actor now learned to speak to the nation. The director of small underground plays now mounted vast, complex productions fiercely resisted by the communists. The poet supported freedom of expression for writers and intellectuals. The altar boy negotiated with the communists and won permission to build new seminaries and churches.

Prof. NORMAN DAVIES, Historian, Oxford Univ.: At the time, it was thought that Wojtyla was more accommodating than Wyszynski. Wyszynski had the reputation of the doughty fighter who had refused to cooperate with the Stalinists, whereas Wojtyla was thought to be rather less confrontational, easier to do business with.

It only shows how little communists understood the real nature either of Polish traditions or of the man, that Wojtyla could be warm, friendly, accommodating on the surface, but an iron determination under the surface.

ADAM ZAMOYSKI, Author, "The Polish Way": If you lived under communism in Poland in the '50s, in the '60s, there was grayness everywhere. There were halftruths everywhere. There were lies everywhere. Everything you ever read was full of them. And I don't mean just falsifications, but fundamental, deep, nonsensical lies. And you were surrounded, in fact, by lies and nonsense.

This gave the great spiritual truths tremendous importance. It meant that you did grasp at the unchanging and the real and the most fundamental messages in religion. You wanted the truth, the unadulterated, brutal truth. And I think that that is why he finds it both necessary and easy to hit out with those absolutes.

NARRATOR: When he became Pope, John Paul's first words for his countrymen were absolute and uncompromising. "Be not afraid," he said, and a year later he returned to Poland like a conqueror. Huge crowds pushed communist police to the side as the Pope made his triumphal progress through the streets of Warsaw.

ADAM ZAMOYSKI: The Pope's first visit to Poland after he had become Pontiff was an extraordinary historical event in Polish history.

NEAL ASCHERSON: There was a moment when I felt that I understood what it was that he was doing to people. Something was happening, in the sense of a current was running between him and the crowd. And it wasn't just that he was saying, "I know that Poland is occupied by an alien power. I know that you want to be free. I want you to be free." It wasn't just that.

I saw that what he was doing was he was holding up a mirror to each individual person. Each person got the impression the Pope was really speaking to them, that he was exclusively available for them. And you're dealing with a society here which had been through 30 years of anonymity, 30 years of being a mass in which their individuality had really been discarded.

They didn't matter to anybody as persons. And the result, of course, was overwhelming because people felt, "He knows that I am me. For the first time I am hearing a public voice speaking my language, saying that I exist." In a way, it's the language of human rights. It's to say each individual is irreplaceable.

ADAM ZAMOYSKI: He suddenly turned up amongst these people and said, "Look, don't be afraid." They just looked at each other. And there were so many people there. And suddenly people stopped being afraid. It was like the beginning of the end of the Roman Empire. It was like a pinprick that burst the bubble. After that, there was nothing that could be done. And that gave the strength for Solidarity and for the destruction of the whole communist system.

BILL BLAKEMORE, Vatican Correspondent, ABC News: Solidarity blossomed after that first trip. The Poles had felt themselves as a national unit, and they knew that they now had power. And when the Pope left, the priests and bishops who could now imitate him knew how to continue organizing them.

ERIC MARGOLIS, "The Toronto Sun": We saw the remarkable incidence of labor unions and workers starting to strike and protest against the communist regime. It also became clear to me, from my own news sources, that the Vatican was suddenly taking a forward position in this and an aggressive position, whereby the church was using its very considerable financial resources to back and fund Solidarity.

I found that the church was, in fact, doing this and established a very elaborate system of raising funds and channeling them, diverting them and moving them around to bring them ultimately to Poland. And the result of this was suddenly the Solidarity movement had financial power. Its people were able to strike in protest.

The Pope left no doubt whatsoever that he was personally challenging the communist system and doing what the communists had long feared, and that was using the enormous moral and, dare we say, financial authority of the Vatican to attack the communists at one of their weakest and most vulnerable points.

NARRATOR: The season of joy and freedom did not last. In December, 1981, General Jaruzelski, the head of the Polish Communist Party, ordered tanks and soldiers to move on his own people.

Mr. PIOTR PASZKOWSKI,Journalist/ Translator: It's difficult to convey to someone who hasn't lived through the time the grim reality of martial law, when people were put in prison, when hundreds of people were interned, when there were tanks and armored vehicles posted on almost every street corner.

NARRATOR: In 1983 the Pope returned to Poland during this charged, dangerous time. He had come to reassure his countrymen and to confront the government.

BILL BLAKEMORE: And so we're all looking very closely when Jaruzelski and the Pope come out for their first public formal meeting. And the camera pans down, and you realize that Jaruzelski is standing there, his knees are trembling. And we all searched for explanations.

Jaruzelski himself ultimately said, "Those were the classic, cliched trembling knees in front of something I knew was extremely powerful." The Pope had this kind of authenticity of nationhood, so that even Jaruzelski himself was put on notice that he was in front of the master.

ANDRZEJ SZCSZYPIORSKI, Author, Polish Journalist: [through interpreter] I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that his pontificate was responsible for the downfall of communist rule worldwide, because Poland, in a way, set the pace. It was the little stone that started the avalanche.

NARRATOR: It had taken decades, but the lonely seminarian had finally answered Stalin's question. The Pope's battalions were human and of the spirit, but they were legion.

But John Paul's victory would not last. With the fall of communism, Poland, his heroic country, his Christ of nations, would change, and soon the Pope would come to feel betrayed.

Liberation Theology

BILL BLAKEMORE: When the Pope went to Central America, we asked him on some of those trips, flying into these countries, "What about liberation theology?" And he'd get very stern, and he would say, "It depends on whose liberation theology. If we're talking about the liberation theology of Christ, not Marx, I am very much for it."

NARRATOR: In Poland the Pope fought communism with clarity and grace. But in Latin America he stumbled. In the 1980s the region was gripped by violent civil wars between despotic rightwing regimes and Marxist revolutionaries. Many Catholic priests caught up in the political struggle were apostles of a new "liberation theology." The Pope's repression of their movement revealed a rigid side of his character in this lush tropical landscape.

The first confrontation came early in his papacy with the embattled archbishop of El Salvador, Oscar Romero. Romero was sympathetic to the liberation theologians who claimed that for too long the Catholic Church had aligned itself with the rich and the powerful. They believed the Church's real place was with the poor and its most important mission was to bring about social change.

ROBERT STONE, Novelist: The conditions that existed most egregiously in Central America made it impossible for a person to be a Christian or even completely a human being. People were being denied their humanity, hence they were being denied their capacity for experiencing a God.

CAROLYN FORCHE, Poet: Monsignor Romero acknowledged the injustice of poverty openly. He condemned institutional violence openly. Monsignor Romero said, "The person you are killing is your brother. You have you do not need to obey an order that is contrary to the commandments of God. Refuse. Lay down your arms. You don't have to do this. I beg you, I beseech you, I order you, stop the repression."

Bishop THOMAS GUMBLETON, Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit: The reports that went back to Rome about Romero were that he was too influenced by the revolutionary movement, and there was danger that this country could become communist or Marxist, and if he wasn't stopped, it would be a total disaster for the church.

Archbishop Romero did not accept that interpretation of the whole movement. He saw it really as the poor rising up to try to change their lives in order to be freed of the oppression and the injustice that they were suffering from and

_ but the other Bishops denounced him to Rome.

GIANCARLO ZIZOLA: [through interpreter] When Romero went to the Vatican for his meeting with the Pope, he was forced to wait many days before he was received because the Vatican did not want him to speak to the Pope. And this caused him a great deal of pain.

MARIA LOPEZ VIGIL, Activist, Author: [through interpreter] I saw him in a state of shock. The first thing that he said to me was, "Help me to understand why I've been treated by the Holy Father in the way that he treated me."

GIANCARLO ZIZOLA: [through interpreter] When he finally met the Pope, he showed him photographs of murdered priests and mutilated peasants, and the only response Romero got from the Pope was that Romero had to find an agreement with the government.

MARIA LOPEZ VIGIL: [through interpreter] I am never going to forget it's in my mind the gesture that Monsignor Romero made when he was explaining that to me. He did this gesture. "Look," he said, "that the Holy Father says that the archbishopric must get along well with the government, that we must enter into a dialogue. And I was trying to let the Holy Father understand that the government attacks the people. And if I am the pastor of the people, I cannot enter into good understanding with this government." But the Holy Father was insisting.

I am still seeing Monsignor Romero making that gesture like wanting to things to converge that cannot converge.

Rev. JON SOBRINO, Liberation Theologian: [through interpreter] When Romero told him that the that the church was being persecuted in El Salvador, John Paul said to him "Well, well, don't exaggerate it." And he said to Romero, "You have to be very careful with communism." The result was that Monsignor Romero was very upset. He left the Vatican in tears. It was a sad interview, very sad.

MARIA LOPEZ VIGIL: [through interpreter] It was an injustice. Monsignor Romero did not deserve that.

NARRATOR: One month after his disappointing visit with the Pope, while he was celebrating Mass in San Salvador, Archbishop Romero was murdered at the altar. The assassins were known to be members of a rightwing death squad. Those close to Romero said that he always knew that one day he would be killed.

His funeral, attended by dignitaries from all over the world, turned into a bloody riot when shots were fired into the crowd of mourners. In life, John Paul II had been wary of Archbishop Romero and where he wanted to lead the church in Latin America, but the Pope was appalled by Romero's assassination. He immediately denounced the murder and called Romero a martyr.

Yet many years would pass before he finally visited Romero's tomb. Romero's death did not change the Pope's harsh views toward liberation theology or toward the political activism of his priests in Latin America.

ROBERTO SURO, "The Washington Post": The Pope went to Nicaragua to understand what this "popular church" was, as they called it in Nicaragua, a church that was allied with the aims of the revolution, that identified itself with the poor and identified the church and the Sandinista regime together as the vehicles for lifting up the poor people. This was something that had a lot of the Latin American hierarchy quite worried, and the Pope was hearing that.

BILL BLAKEMORE: He was coming, in effect, from his triumphal visits to Poland into Latin America, saying, "I am dealing with the communists over there. I'm going to deal with them here in Latin America." He scolded on camera and in front of the world the priest Ernesto Cardenal, saying, "You must correct yourself with the church. You cannot be aligned with this political movement." He used both fingers. "You must you must correct this." And Cardenal was doing this, "Yes, yes, yes, Holy Father. Yes, I will."

ROBERTO SURO: There was a very dramatic mass, where the background of the altar, as I remember it, was sort of like a revolutionary mural. It was like, you know, Che Guevara's ghost was wandering around somewhere on the altar there.

JOHN PAUL II: [subtitles] The unity of the Church demands of us the radical elimination ... then you weaken the unity of the church.

Rev. WILLIAM R. CALLAHAN, Writer: In the struggle between the Sandinistas and the church leadership in Nicaragua there were code words, and the Pope began the first 11 paragraphs of his talk with one of those sets of code words. "I say you must live in unity with your bishops." That's the same thing as saying "You must back off from the Sandinista revolution."

People that had the papal colors were shouting "Viva la Papa," and the others were shouting "Queremos la paz" "We want peace." Finally as this would swell up, finally the Pope said what is the Spanish equivalent of "Shut up"? "Silencio." Three times the chanting swelled, and three times the Pope told the people to keep quiet.

JOHN PAUL II: [subtitles] The Church is the first to want peace!

ROBERTO SURO: The man has a bit of a temper and does not brook a lot of impertinence. And he was clearly angry about this. When he came back to Rome, he said, "What the hell is going on in that country? Who are these people? And what kind of church is this?" And the prelates in Rome and the conservative hierarchy in Latin America said, "That's liberation theology. You just saw it."

Well, he saw one very particular, small strain of what was a continentwide movement that had many, many manifestations. This set in motion a very deliberate strategy to crush liberation theology. [ Read more of this interview]

ERIC MARGOLIS, "The Toronto Sun": He moved very quickly to close many institutions that had become hotbeds of liberation theology seminaries, for example, schools, particular churches, things where there had become clusters of sort of Marxism within the church. These were closed. Their personnel were transferred to the Catholic versions of Devil's Island, to all kinds of remote places out of the region.

The Pope then moved in a whole new cadre of administrative and religious personnel to come in and replace these people. So he did a complete clean sweep of the system in Latin America and put his own men in who were responsive and answerable to the Pope. He just cleaned them out.

ROBERTO SURO, "The Washington Post": The subject was not open for discussion. It was not open for exploration. It was not a matter to be researched, debated. It was over.

JOHN PAUL II: [subtitles] I would follow the various orientations outlined by our bishops in their recent document about the theory of liberation.

ROBERT STONE, Novelist: If we look at his point of view and what his job is, it's to hold the Catholic Church together, is to make sure that Mass gets said every Sunday, that kids get baptized, that kids get confirmed, that people get married in church. And for a functioning institution like that to thrive, there's no place for stars or superstars, or maybe just one superstar, and that's him. He's the Pope and they're not, and that's the story.

The Pope knew that at the end of the day, what people wanted from the church was not political and social instruction but the Ten Commandments, sin and how to be against it, and what they traditionally had turned to religion for.

BILL BLAKEMORE: History will be the ultimate judge of this, but it does seem to me that he may have had too simplistic an understanding of just how communist, how Marxist, some of these liberation theology movements in Latin America were.

JAMES CARROLL, Author, "American Requiem," Former Priest: This Pope was needed on the side of the revolution there, so that for one thing, as in Eastern Europe, it could be nonviolent, but so that it could be powerful. And it's a tragedy that this Pope didn't recognize it as such. And I can only understand his failure to do so because he applied to it too narrowly the lens of his own fight against communism.

ROBERTO SURO: You have to wonder what would have happened if he had made a different choice. What would have happened if instead he had said, "There is a way for the church to be a force for social change in Latin America. Let me show you how we might do it and be faithful to my ideals."

There was an opportunity there. There was a moment in the history of Latin America. There was a moment in the history of the church. He decided not to go down the route of change. Instead he chose another route. He chose to end the experimentation, to throttle that initiative. That was his choice, and that's what he'll live with.


NARRATOR: In May, 1981, as the Pope rode through the crowd in Saint Peter's Square after a general audience, he was shot by a terrorist. As his car rushed him to the hospital, John Paul, close to death, called out desperately to the Virgin Mary to save his life. In his broadcast after the assassination attempt, he thanked everyone for their prayers and added, "To you Mary, I say again, Totus tuus ego sum" "I am wholly yours."

A year later, the Pope went to the shrine to the Virgin Mary in Fatima, Portugal, to place the assassin's bullet in her crown. Later he put his bloody sash on the altar of the Black Madonna at Czeshtochowa, Poland's most holy shrine.

The Pope believes the Virgin Mary saved his life. The roots of the his passion for Mary go back to his mother's death.

LYNN POWELL, Poet, "Old & New Testaments": Right after his mother died, his father took the young boy on a pilgrimage to Kalwaria, the famous shrine to Mary in Poland. And that had to be a very profound experience for him. Here he had just lost his mother, and he was worshipping at the shrine of the greatest of all mothers, who was also in Heaven, who had also been separated from her son in a tragic way.

And it makes you wonder if in that experience the young boy's longing and grief became fused with worship and with piety.

Prof. TONY JUDT, Historian of Eastern Europe, NYU: By the age of 15, he was the head of the Marian Sodality in his hometown. He was the leading figure in the cult of Mary in a town in Poland where everyone to some extent shared that cult. So he already was a powerfully committed young man, committed to the idea that this was a woman who embodied duty, responsibility, goodness, certainty. All the things that his mother could not be because she didn't exist were invested in her.

NARRATOR: The Pope's ardent devotion to the Virgin Mary has 2,000 years of history behind it. There never has been a prophet, nor an apostle, nor a saint, not any human being who has called forth such fervent hopes.

VOICE FUGUE: Tenderness, nurture ... human suffering ... softness ... an enormous, endless love ... a refuge.

Prof. TONY JUDT: Karol Wojtyla's Mary is not the Virgin Mary of choice, of complexity, of uncertainty, the Virgin Mary of paradox that many feminists have found. His Mary is, for him, the repository of absolute values.

VOICE FUGUE: The great symbol of acquiescence and obedience ... The modest handmaiden of the Lord ... The weeping Mary, the suffering Mary ... She's what will symbolize God's compassion ... The ideal wayfarer on the face of the earth ... Diaphanous, lost in thought.

Prof. TONY JUDT: He deeply believes, in a way that I think is simply difficult for the modern sensibility to grasp, in the reality of the Virgin Mary. This makes him peculiarly sensitive to what he thinks of as the crossing over of roles, is part of what he thinks of as the pollution in our culture.

Women can, essentially, by virtue of being women, only really do one thing that men can't do, and that is produce children, and hence his obsession with that, because that is the distinctively female aspect of human behavior that he, as Pope, can address. Women must be true to themselves, and in being true to themselves they can be, in however small a way, true to Mary.

MARINA WARNER, Historian, Author, "Myth and the Cult of Virgin Mary": It makes nonsense of the whole Marian doctrine, that when she consented, she actually made a free choice.

That's the whole she has no human dignity or autonomy if, when she consents to the angel's message and agrees to bear the son of God, that that isn't a free choice of hers. If she just simply submitted to her biological destiny, there would be no grandeur of her autonomy, which is something that they're always insisting on.

There is a fundamental paradox, something that simply cannot be reconciled within the Pope's own psyche and within his message to society. And that is he says, "All yours," "Totus tuus." He's utterly devoted to Mary. She permeates his praying, his writing, his theology, his vision of the Apocalypse, everything.

But when it comes to what this means for women themselves, who are meant to be modeled on her, there are conditions. And you know, he has set his face against every all kinds of changes that would make it more possible for women not only to have a role in the church, but also to have a kind of you know, a control of their own lives.

MARCO POLITI, Italian Journalist, CoAuthor, "His Holiness: John Paul II": John Paul II has followed the traditional Church teaching on contraception, on abortion, on women's ordination. What is distinctive is his fierce accent, his readiness to battle and to fight for these ideas, the way in which he year after year has said no to contraception, the way he was ready to fight against the U.N. Population Conference in Cairo in saying "No way" for abortion, or for safe and legal abortion.

ROBERTO SURO, "The Washington Post": From one end of the Third World another, from India across Africa, throughout Central and South America, in situations where overpopulation was the most obvious problem, the Pope had no qualms, no trouble, no hesitation in saying over and over and over again that the teaching of the Church was that birth control was wrong, Even when AIDS was ravishing these same people , even inside marriages where one member was infected the Pope forbade the use of condoms. The head of John Paul's council on the family at one point even actually insisted against all the medical evidence that condoms don't prevent the spread of AIDS. The Pope's message was simple people had to find other ways to solve these problems, because birth control is always evil.

NARRATOR: John Paul II faced a mounting rebellion inside the church to his tough stands against reproductive rights and the ordination of women. The catholic church was losing priests. Dioceses around the world were closing. Would the pope consider a married priesthood as had existed in the early church? Would he allow women to be priests?

The world outside was changing. In 1992, the Anglican Church began to ordain women.

ANGLICAN PRIEST: Send down the Holy Spirit upon your servant, Angela.

MARCO POLITI: For the Pope, it was like a tidal wave coming up. And he reacted, saying not only no, but there has to be no discussion on that subject, and that this can never be changed. In a certain way, he wants to bind the hands also of the future Popes.

JAMES CARROLL: The reason it's closed in the mind of the Pope is and I take him at his word is because he takes quite literally, in a quite fundamentalist way, the structure of the Church as it's recorded in the New Testament, a structure that emphasizes the authority of the 12 Apostles, all of whom were men.

We hear it said again and again, that the Church can't ordain women because Jesus only chose males. Of course, everyone in the Church, from the Pope down, understands in a hundred other ways that we aren't to take the prescriptions of the scriptures literally.

BATTINA FERRERA, M. Div. : I can argue from the eyebrows up, but I think that a piece of it that is always is often left out is the affective experience of loving the church, willing to give my life for the church, and having that church say to me, "Because God created you a woman, you are constituatively unable, by virtue of gender, to have a call to the ordained priesthood."

It doesn't tell me just that it will not accept it. It doesn't tell me that it doesn't like it or it's uncomfortable with it. I am told in the statement of John Paul II that I am constituatively, by virtue of my creation, unable to have a call that I feel is part of the integrity of who I am.

JAMES CARROLL: The largest irony of this papacy is that John Paul II is an apostle of justice, and the world loves him for that, but he presides over this rank injustice within the Catholic Church, this violation of the rights to equality of women, more than half the church's members. And it's women have a right to be really quite outraged about it. [ View a debate on the Pope and women]

Prof. TONY JUDT: In each woman he really does see, I think, some small part of the Virgin Mary, or his mother or whatever, reduced if a woman does things as she shouldn't do. It does make him genuinely angry. This is not an invented or ideological or political or institutional anger. This is some sort of deeply felt belief that this is something that must not happen. And that if it if it kills him going around the world saying it mustn't happen, then let it kill him, that that is what his duty is.

Culture of Death

IRENA ALBERTI, Editor, "La Pensee Rousse," Friend: The Pope believes that the 20th century is the most evil, the most tragic, the most dangerous of all of mankind's history. The Pope sees evil inside our souls and hearts, but he also understands and knows that evil is present as a force outside of ourselves. The Pope believes the devil is there, and he's a presence. He's somebody who is very much alive and very active and very concrete and who is fighting for the conquest of man, fighting against God all the time.

JOHN PAUL II: We who must choose between evil and good-

Prof. TONY JUDT: Try to imagine the life of a man who seems to be obsessed by death, who has lived through what Karol Wojtyla has lived through. He lived in Nazioccupied Poland for six years under the worst dictatorship anyone has ever known.

So he experienced death all around him, not only literal death bodies in the streets but also moral, social death, the end of law, the end of any order, the end of any system of values, the end of any possibility of imagining a better future. And then this man lives in postwar Poland for 20 years under communist occupation.

ROBERTO SURO: And he hasn't an experience, with one exception, which isn't an experience of death in all its forms personal, public, political, social, cultural, moral, environmental. What's the one exception? The church, his faith.

The proportions between all that death and that single unwavering insistence upon life in its distinctive Catholic form accounts for a large part of this man's intensity of personality, intensity of vision, and the great difficulty that most of the rest of us who did not grow up in that world, the difficulty we have of grasping what he means and what he stands for and who he is.

NARRATOR: In 1995 the Pope issued his most important encyclical the "Gospel of Life" his challenge to the modern world.

ROBERTO SURO, "The Washington Post": The encyclical "Gospel of Life" is the Pope's starkest, perhaps his most forceful statement of what he sees wrong with the world. It's his darkest prophecy of how mankind could go wrong. It portrays the world, all of the world, as in the grip of what he calls "a culture of death." He sees humanity as having lost its sense of the sacredness of life, of the value of the individual human being.

READER: ["Gospel of Life"] "It is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between good and evil. Hedonistic mentality, selfcentered concept of freedom, the exalting of the individual in an absolute way. It gives no place to solidarity.

"A culture which considers suffering the epitome of evil to be eliminated at all costs, violence done to millions of humans beings forced into poverty. The handicapped and the sick threaten the lifestyle of those who are more favored. They are looked on as the enemy to be resisted or eliminated."

Dr. JACK KEVORKIAN: My intent was to carry out my duty as a doctor to end their suffering. Unfortunately, that entailed, in their cases, ending of the life.

READER: ["Gospel of Life"] "Euthanasia is a grave violation of the law of God, a false mercy, a perversion of mercy. True compassion leads to sharing another's pain. It does not kill the person whose suffering we cannot bear. Not even a murderer loses his personal dignity. God did not desire that a homicide be punished by another act of homicide. Freedom negates and destroys itself. It becomes a culture of death, leading to the destruction of others. There is a new massacre, a true slaughter of innocents, a new holocaust."

NARRATOR: That dark vision of modernity had deepened as John Paul II watched what happened to his beloved Poland, the Christ of Nations he once believed would lead the world to a great spiritual awakening.

JOHN PAUL II: [Kielce, Poland, 1991] [subtitles] This land is my motherland! This is my mother and fatherland! These are my brothers and sisters!

ROBERTO SURO: For one of the rare times he addressed them as fellow Poles, speaking of himself he said, "I say this to you because Poland is my mother." And he shook his fist at the ground, clearly angry at the fact that now, two or three years after the end of communist rule, Poland had become very Westernized, very materialistic.

Prof. EAMON DUFFY, Vatican Historian, Cambridge Univ.: Where he, with tears streaming down his face, raged at the crowds because they'd freed themselves from communism, and what had they done? They'd built sex shops. They'd got McDonald's. They were buying into the capitalist dream. And for him, this is a great betrayal of humanity.

Sister ZOFIA ZDYBICKA, Professor, Friend: [through interpreter] And then he called, "Do not kill! You are my brothers, my sisters, my mother! Do not kill!" with his inner conviction that the killing of the unborn child is the biggest offense against human rights, for the most basic right is the right to live.

IRENA ALBERTI, Editor, "La Pensee Rousse," Friend: The horror which abortion awakes in him it's really a feeling of horror. His particular attention to the problem of abortion was born out of this vision of death of innocent children, slaughter of innocent children, innocent, living, small, defenseless human beings.

NEAL ASCHERSON, Author, "The Struggles for Poland": When he was growing up during the occupation, the Nazi occupation, he saw around him the Jews being destroyed. And they were destroyed. The Poles were next on the list. And indeed the destruction, the genocide of the Poles appeared to be already beginning, and it went some way. It was a question whether in 10 years' time there'd be any Polish people left. Clearly, there wouldn't be any Jews left.

The lesson he drew from this was that protecting birth and reproduction was a matter of survival. It was just a question of were there going to be any human beings left in this country or not.

MARINA WARNER, Historian, Author, "Myth and the Cult of Virgin Mary": Well, I think psychologically he's haunted by the ghosts of the victims of the Holocaust, and he feels more possessed by them, and they press on him. He sees these unborn children as hungry ghosts, and the mothers who have created these hungry ghosts become almost spectral figures of evil. And his whole emphasis on abortion makes the issue of women's freedom uttered in the language of death.

Prof. HANS KUNG, Theologian and Vatican Critic: He thinks about all these women who use the pill, who practice anticonception he thinks that they belong to this culture of death because who uses the pill is already on the road to abortion. I think already this linkage is terrible because women who use the pill, they just want to avoid abortion.

And on the other side, a Pope who prohibits the pill is practically responsible for innumerous abortions in the world. I think that all this will be considered in the light of history.

JOHN PAUL II: If a person's right to life is violated at the moment in which he is first conceived in his mother's womb, an indirect blow is struck also at the whole of the moral order.

ROBERT STONE, Novelist: He's onto something. It's there's a contradiction there that you know, that we have to deal with. If we advocate the freedom of women to choose whether they're going to control their reproductive rights, we have to be aware that everything, in a way, is part of a continuum. And we always have to be aware of what's potentially at the end of the continuum.

I mean, we have to be we have to be that wise. The ending of life, even fetal life, for the convenience of an individual does tend toward a situation in which living people can be killed for the convenience of individuals. In fact, that already happens. The Pope thinks it happens whenever the death penalty is applied.

Prof. DONALD CABANA, Former Prison Warden: I knew that at some point in time I was going to decide what I was doing as a warden could no longer peacefully coexist with what my church had taught, what the Holy Father was teaching about my role in this culture of death. I remember standing in front of the gas chamber, watching one of these inmates die this torturous death. I mean, there's nothing nice about dying by lethal gas. It's a torturous process.

And I remember, almost as if the Pope was standing there waving his finger at me, thinking to myself, "I wonder what will my God ask of me when my moment arrives to be judged?"

The last young man that I executed was like a son to me. I walked him into the gas chamber, and he said, "I love you. Thank you for treating me like a human being. I love you for that."

Inside that gas chamber, both that young man and myself suddenly discovered clearly what I think the Pope's message is about the culture of death. We discovered that there is dignity that a human being is entitled to, and that when we stripped away all of the titles and we stripped away the word "convict" and the word "warden," when we stripped away a prison number, he and I were just two ordinary people who discovered that the culture of death violated the very precepts of our existence.

And that's not to say for a moment that either one of us had forgotten the horrible thing that happened that brought both of us to that moment. There's a person who will never watch his child go to the prom, will not grow old with his wife, because in a moment of madness this young man committed a horrible act.

But each time I walked away from this more convinced that the state, and me as its agent acting on its behalf, was even more violative of the principle of life than this young man had been. We're supposed to be better than this.

JOHN PAUL II: Because human life is created in the image and likeness of God, nothing surpasses the greatness or dignity of a human person.

ROBERTO SURO, "The Washington Post": He comes out as a lonely messenger, offering a path towards salvation in a world that, as he portrays it, is bent on its own destruction.

That's a very difficult message for people to accept. It's one that poses stark, difficult choices. And it's a message that hasn't been heard, I believe. One doesn't see the kind of great conversion that clearly he hoped for.

And at the end of the day, the question is, is he lost? Is he wrong? Are things not that bad? Or are we lost for not hearing him?


LYNN POWELL, Poet, "Old & New Testaments": People who have known the Pope talk about the intensity of his prayer life, the intensity of his relationship to God, how when he prays, it seems like he's talking to someone in the next room.

VOICE FUGUE: He begins to close his eyes ... I see a very pious, almost mystical person ... You feel that he is diving in some mysterious depth .... who seems to know that when we pray, we pray to a mystery ... You can see that he is in communication with God ... this big white block of prayer ... The faith of this Pope is the faith of a child.

GILBERT LEVINE, Conductor, Friend: I was in the private chapel of the Pope and watching the Pope meditate and being drawn into meditation with him, and I felt a tremendous sense of wellbeing, of concentration I with this mystical vision, which was for me Jewish, and he clearly with the crucifix on the wall, but through the crucifix, through Jesus, to God the Father, who is the same God of our Torah. And time passed. And I mean time passed.

I have come to understand that Christianity is a mystical religion, that it's a religion of mysteries, that it is not sufficient just to know the word of the Bible, but to also cross a bridge, a mystical bridge, to an understanding of the essence of the faith. There is something that Christians must do in order to really enter into their faith, and I've seen him do it. I mean, I learned it in that room. There were no words spoken, and yet I knew who he was in communion with, and I knew that he had made for himself an incredible leap.

It was transforming, and in my spiritual life I have never been the same.

Am I a stronger Jew and do I adhere more to my Jewish roots because of my relationship with him? Paradoxically, yes. We now, after this whole relationship with him, celebrate Shabbat. I never did that before. I've never, from the first moment I met him, ever had the impression that he was interested in converting me because faith is the issue for him. He wants you, if you're Jewish, to believe, to find faith.

Msgr. LORENZO ALBACETE, Prof. of Theology, Friend: Karol Wojtyla, John Paul II, is not a man with faith, his identity is faith. For him the human being is the believing creature. What defines a human being is faith. It is a judgment, a position, a stand that you take with respect to everything. If you fail to take that stand, then at best you are superficial. You have no depth.

Prof. TONY JUDT, Historian of Eastern Europe, NYU: I don't think there is any doubt that for Karol Wojtyla, faith doesn't just trump everything else, faith is all there is. Reason, argument, works, belief even in the sense of a rational exercise of belief, the choice to believe is as nothing compared to faith. I don't think we've had to deal with a public figure who has that kind of faith ever in the modern era.

ROBERTO SURO: Watching the Pope when he travels, you almost get the feeling that he thinks of himself like a lifeguard who's throwing himself to save a drowning person. There is a personal urgency to what he's doing. And it's personal in the sense that he has to do it. He's a preacher. He's out to save souls. And he travels the world to do it. He knows that he can't do it from Rome.

Msgr. LORENZO ALBACETE: What will do it? Really, what does it is experience, not an intellectual argument. You must be given an experience of having been touched by grace. And the only one he can assure you is through him.

He would like to touch you and hold your hands. If he is a fleshtoflesh witness, you see, that will do it. I have seen what a glimpse of this man can mean, and just the Popemobile coming by you could barely just see this little figure, you know, "There he is~! There he is!" and whole life changes and hope is possible and-

At the end of this millennium, the question of faith should have died. Faith has never been so assaulted as it has been in our time. He knows we are a people numbed by evil, seduced by false reason, overwhelmed by science. But even so, our yearning remains.

DAVID BERLINSKI, Writer, Mathematician: I think the Pope is making an entirely credible observation that we are all oppressed by the results that we imagine science has given us.

On the one hand, when we turn to the heavens, we see these endless galaxies pinwheeling in the night sky, no trace of life as far as we can discern, unimaginable reaches of space and time, the whole thing frozen, gelid, uncommunicating, way beyond any finite power of human discernment or appreciation, smoldering, explosive processes at work in the cosmos which we can barely fathom, and the whole thing destined to dribble away in the endless reaches of space or contract again on itself.

Given our natural size and scale, the sheer immensity of things, the primitive nature of the drama taking place before our eyes, I think, gives us a very vulnerable sense. There's an ache in the human heart. "Oh, my God! Look at how big that thing is!"

The other side of that equation is when we turn to living systems, we are endlessly provoked and dismayed to discover that, far from being unique in the animal kingdom, we seem to be kith and kin to every revolting and shambling thing that slithers or crawls across the face of the earth. It's just an accidental rearrangement of the genetic alphabet that gives me my position and gives the fish his.

One of the things modern science has given us is a new object of veneration. Let's call it the laws of nature. Some physicists even go so far as to credit the laws of nature with the creation of the universe.

And I think the Pope is saying, "Why repose your confidence in the laws and refrain from making the intellectually audacious step of saying these laws are what we, within the confines of the cave, actually can perceive of the nature of reality?

"But if the laws are luminous, if they give us instruction, if they provide an aspect of beauty that has never been seen before, surely this is suggestive. It says something to the human soul that these laws actually exist. Don't worship in a temple that for all intents and purposes is your own creation. Simply look at the luminousness and make the next step."

ROBERT STONE, Novelist: When I was about 15 or 16, for the usual rationalist reasons, I stopped believing, at that time under the impression that belief and faith were the same thing. I since understand that they are not the same thing, but I thought they were, and I stopped believing in all this stuff. And I felt tremendously liberated. And only somewhat later, only years later, did it come to me that half of my head was missing, that I had just cut myself off from a tremendously important part of myself that was no longer available.

I was doing a story on scientific enterprise that works out of Fort Pierce, Florida. They have a submersible that's capable of going to enormous depths. And it's totally dark except for the biophosphorescent creatures that live there, tritons and cephalopods and creatures like this. You feel like you're in the ocean at the dawn of Creation.

What it made me think of was when God confronts Job. God asks him, "Can you draw Leviathan with a hook? Who made Behemoth? Have you seen the springs of the ocean?"

And I thought, "My God, I'm seeing the springs of the ocean." And I thought, "This creature has as much life, is as perfectly formed, is as complete in its destiny, in its place in things, as I am." And it made me think, "Surely there is a Providence underlying all these wonders," and it tempted me to faith.

Msgr. LORENZO ALBACETE, Prof. of Theology, Friend: To the Pope, science and the wonder it evokes in us is not an obstacle to belief but a privileged path to it. John Paul II urges us to look beyond our intellectual ideas because reason, which limits man to the visible world, will kill faith.

GERMAINE GREER, Author, Professor: When I was 15, the nun that was teaching me unwisely decided to teach me the rational proofs for the existence of God. I wasn't convinced. I thought they were fairly easily refuted. And then I went to university, and in those days you knew if you went to university you would lose two things: your virginity and your faith. And I lost them both.

And however, I mean, the important thing here is that I was also imbued in the culture of the church. I had been singing great choral music ever since I was about 12, and I loved the Mass, and I loved the liturgy, and I loved the liturgical year, and I am greatly attached to them still.

When I was in St. Petersburg, it was kind of a date with destiny. The huge bass bell, this baritone bell spoke, and it was just an amazing sound. And I thought, "Yes! It's the beginning of Mass." And I flew in the door, and the choir was singing the processional for the Introit.

The physicality of the sound strikes you on the face like velvet hammers, and it's just unbelievable. And I just sort of stretched my throat and just stood there paralyzed. I couldn't move. And the choir sang the full diapason of the human voice, from the darkest bass tones to really floating high sopranos. It sounded to me like the craving of the human spirit for God and the total desolation that God is not palpable to me, even worse because God is not there.

I mean, how amazing to listen to this extraordinary cry. It was greater than grand opera. I mean, it was more imbued with feeling than any Wagner I've ever heard in my life. It was astonishing. And I just stood there. For an hour and a half they never stopped singing.

And by the time it was over, I kind of reeled back out, and all the front of my clothing was sodden. I'd actually been weeping the whole time, but I'd never known I was doing it. It was just the tears had just been dripping off my chin. I was sort of thinking what and of course, I hadn't got a handkerchief. I hadn't expected I didn't even believe I'd hear the Mass. And it never occurred to me that it would be like this.

Msgr. LORENZO ALBACETE: Our yearning for God in whatever form in the ocean or in the swell of music suggests that we already have more faith than we know. But the ache is only a first step. God would ask us to open ourselves to a more wrenching experience.

Archbishop GIUSEPPE PITTAU, S.J.: John Paul II tells us, you know, "Through suffering you can become better. And you can help others." It is for Christians, it is the meaning of the cross. He feels that without suffering, one doesn't grow. An easy life without any kind of suffering has no depth.

Rev. Father RAYMOND BRAGA, Romanian Orthodox Priest: I was in a communist prison for 11 years. We, the priests and the monks, were in prison because we wanted to continue with the religious education of the young people. In the communist world, children don't belong to the parents, they belong to the state.

The communist prison is a diabolic laboratory in which they wanted to transform the personality. It's not just a place of torture. They considered man like a dog, like an animal that can be trained. They put us in the hospital for mental diseases, and they gave us some shots, I don't know what kind of shots. It was a time when I saw double. I saw myself that I was speaking aloud without my knowledge.

You reached a moment to keep yourself between the limit of normal and abnormal because not everybody resist. Some persons resist up to here, another have more resistance. But one day you have to give up. When you gave up, they considered a victory.

But when they asked, "Do you still believe in God?" "Yes, I still believe in God."

First six months, sure, it was very difficult. But later, not having any perspective, any horizon, any place to look out, just four walls of your cells, you have to go somewhere. And that was my conversion. I went inside. Because you know, in the Western world we have a socalled cosmological knowledge. We go in the outer space, outside of ourselves. Everything that we explore is outside of ourselves.

But what about you? What about this inner universe that is the human personality? We call it soul in a Christian term. It's infinite like an atom. I was a theologian, I was a priest, I was a monk, and I'm ashamed to say that God, my God, was the God of the Book. But God is alive, is experience, is personal experience.

Msgr. LORENZO ALBACETE: For some, suffering is the crucible where real faith is born. For others, suffering is where believing ends.

GERMAINE GREER: I think I learned about sanctity when I went to Ethiopia in '84, '85. And I saw people whose lives are profoundly religious, who never take a breath without consecrating it to God or Our Lady or someone, for whom every day it has a place on the liturgical calendar.

To see these people coping with the huge humiliation of famine because I think people who are not farmers don't realize that famine is the ultimate failure for a farmer. It's utter humiliation and bestialization. But these people under this pressure behaved like angels. I mean, to me they really were, you know, garbed in celestial light.

It's so hard to think about it without rage against God, you see, because they were his fools! [weeps] I mean, that's what happened there. Those people followed their religious ritual into the worst kind of squalor you can imagine, so that the bodies were always beautifully washed, they were beautifully clad in the people's last white cotton garments. And they were laid in their shelf tombs as if they were precious things, to rise again on the last day.

And if you don't believe there's a last day, or they'll rise, or that there's any recompense for these lives of unremitting selfdenial, then you you cannot I mean, if God exists, I'm against him.

Msgr. LORENZO ALBACETE: This is what he would say to someone whose experience of suffering has become an obsessive question. You know, he would say, "No, no, no. I am no consolation. My urge is don't be afraid. Continue questioning. Take the question as far as it goes. Let it become a cry. Let it become a cry, even if is a cry of hatred, a cry of rebellion, a cry of rejection. Then say that cry. Say it because you are this step away from faith."

For the Pope, this is not the last moment in the lives of those victims. United with Christ, those will rise again. Life will be stronger than death. This is, for the Pope, a conviction as certain as the fact that the sun will rise tomorrow.

ANDREA MARCOVICCI, Singer, Actress: I had faith as a child and lost it in a flash. It happened so quickly. I had no idea what I'd lost.

Whenever I go into a church, and if it's an empty church, right out would come this aching sound of this one song that I sang when I was little. And it was [sings] "O come. O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here, until the son of God appear. Rejoice. Rejoice. Emmanuel will come to thee, o Israel."

Now, I learned it when I was little. I don't think I had any idea what it was about. You hear it very rarely, but at Christmastime I always hear it in the back of my mind. And sometimes when I'm really lost, I'll sing it in a hallway, or in an elevator, or God knows where, in a shower, and it comes back to me as a sort of general song of aching yearning. "Come back to me," is what it sounds like to me. "Come and take care of me."

To me it's everything about being taken care of. It's about either having faith or having your father back in your life, having some allconsuming power bigger than you to say, "It's all right. It's all right. You can make it through whatever it is that you're trying to make it through." And that's the song I always hear.

Msgr. LORENZO ALBACETE: He has placed faith at the center of the agenda. In the end, though, he knows that all he has been sent to do is to put the issue before us, to make the proposal with the urgency of every fiber of his being: "Believe. Do not be afraid to be afraid to believe," his very first words as a Pope. "Do not be afraid. It will take nothing from you."

But in the end it can only be a proposal. The greatness and the mystery is our freedom. We can accept it. We can move on to something else. I don't think he knows what will be the case.


ROBERTO SURO: I think the Pope's out to be a prophetic figure, somebody who changed humanity. The road he laid out, if followed, would have transformed humanity, in a spiritual sense.

Prof. TONY JUDT: The legacy of this man, this Pope, is something that perhaps he wouldn't have expected. His legacy is the debate. His legacy is the angry conversation that he provoked over faith versus modernity.

There will be no legacy of success in defeating modernity, and there will certainly be no sense in which he will have occupied the ground between absolute faith and modern nonbelief. But he has forced upon his opponents a conversation that they would never have had with the previous popes, and in terms which were his terms. And he did, to that degree, shape the conversation at the end of the millennium in a way no one else has.

Msgr. LORENZO ALBACETE: The final legacy of this man, will be the way he has died. The way he has fallen apart, disintegrated , physically, emotionally, mentally, embarrassingly before — before the world, making a spectacle of himself.

Now he can barely say a word , he's drooling, the body is out of control, headed directly to the moment , and still he sets aside his assistants , because he wants the world to see — to see this final encounter with the ultimate question.

For him I am sure this was the moment to embody everything he has said. The challenge — human life is worthwhile — no matter what, no matter how week, no matter how insignificant it may look like. To challenge the world which is obsessed with image, with , with youth, with success, with power, with words. Forcing us to look at the aged, either in ourselves or in others. And in the end summing up his very first words to the world: "Be not Afraid — be not afraid of even being afraid — the value of your life is worth infinity . It can not be destroyed by death.

ROBERTO SURO: At the end of the day, when you look at this extraordinary life and you see all that he's accomplished, all the lives he's touched, the nations whose history he's changed, the way he's become such a powerful figure in our culture, in all of modern culture, among believers and not

Taking all of that into account, you're left with one very disturbing and difficult question. On the one hand, the Pope can seem this lonely, pessimistic figure, a man who only sees the dark side of modernity, a man obsessed with the evils of the 20th century, a man convinced that humankind has lost its way, a man so dark and so despairing that he loses his audiences. That would make him a tragic figure, certainly.

On the other hand, you have to ask, is he a prophet? Did he come here with a message? Did he see something that many of us are missing? In that case, the tragedy is ours.


ANNOUNCER: For more of this report, explore FRONTLINE's Web site for a full biography of this pope, a roundtable discussion about homosexuality, birth control and women, more video stories about faith and spiritual yearning, plus a variety of the pope's writings. Join in the discussion at

To order John Paul II: The Millennial Pope on videocassette, call PBS Home Video at 1800PLAYPBS.



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