frontline: pope john paul II - the millennial pope

pope walking with staff
discussion:  general comments


I am very appreciative of how you told the story of Pope John Paul. It was one of the finest accountings of a human life that I have had the privilege of watching. Your coverage of his vision, passion, and personal warmth as well as his impact upon history was quite comprehensive.

I also thank you for allowing him to represent his own perspective on the various issues he faced during his life while not neglecting to help your viewers understand why so many Catholics, not to mention non-Catholics, have taken issue with some of his stances.

I was especially touched by the explanation you offered for why John Paul failed to appreciate the faith and heroic ministry of such clergymen as Bishop Oscar Romero in Latin America despite the fact that the witness of Bishop Romero (and the numerous other Catholic martyrs there) was clearly just as faithful an expression of the Gospel and the teachings of Vatican II as what John Paul and his fellow clergymen did in Eastern Europe. The programs recounting of his very fruitful acts of repentance and reconciliation with the Jewish People was also very moving.

As is so often the case with us human beings, the piety of this wonderful man was clearly the source of his many great successes as well as his failure to fruitfully engage some of the critical problems the Church faced during his life. I pray that, despite the non-apostolic manner in which they were chosen, the cardinals of John Paul will manage by Gods grace to choose a successor who, while blessed with the likes of John Pauls faith and courage, has an experience of our world and a vision for the Church that will enable him to move beyond the limitations of that dear servant of God now taken from us.

(Please publish my email address if possible)

John-Otto Liljenstolpe
Seattle, WA


Thank you ever so much for such a beautiful and thoughtful presentation - I was totally unable to leave the room while the program was running.

diane rudnick
bakersfield, california


I am a practicing Catholic. I read the bible on a regular basis. I was touched by your documentary on Pope John Paul II. I have purchased this video years ago and I know that you have added new material to it.

What's more profound about this now, and I might add struck a deep cord with me, was the latter commentary on his legacy and strong belief in life. How he perservered through his own sickness for all of the world to see and yet remained constantly clear that life should never be taken for granted that it should be treasured. This Pope, unlike many so-called icons of this day, truly practiced what he preached. Our world is that much more lost without him. He was a constant reminder of why I'm a Catholic. God Bless you and us John Paul.

glenn gomez
laguna niguel, california


The Frontline episode of Pope John Paul was incredible. It shows the complexity, not only of the man, but of the times in which we live. While people on all sides of the discussion share many of his beliefs of on the meaninglessness of modern culture, those same people may disagree on matters of what is moral, and what truly is spiritual. I truly appreciate the complex exploration of such a complex and conflicted man and religion.

Jim Brillon
Anaheim, California


Thank you for providing insight into the the man and his "message" to the masses.

Danell Tomasella
Lexington, MA


I am pleased that Frontline showed this program and that it tried to show the complexity of the man and yet he comes to us with simple honesty in his faith . I found Pope John Paul II to have a moral center that did not waiver.

We always knew where he stood, which we can not say for other world leaders. The Faith portion of the program was moving. I enjoyed it the second time on the day of his death, and new life with the Lord.

Antoinette Carbone
Miller Place, NY


I have been consistently disappointed by John Paul II, but admired his faith and witness especially regarding war and the death penalty.

You're program, airing on the day of his death, was so fair, so balanced and so beautifully produced that it puts the Cable/Networks pre-canonization of him to shame.

Thomas Muldoon
Somers, NY


while channel surfing on this windy rainswept sat. evenning I was fortunate to stop at pbs for the show about the Pope.It was a beautiful show about a man of Pure Love and faith,it brought me to tears to hear from people on how they have discovered their faith.

guy danza
bklyn, ny


I lived under communism for the first 26 years of my life. I remember how it felt to read or watch only the party line.

Your program reminds me of the party line we used to get when I studied communism (as a compulsory subject) in college. You were only allowed to think one way. Any other opinions or beliefs were forbidden; they didn't exist. There was (not too subtle) message everywhere that only a religious bigot or a traitor had other opinions.

As a woman, I resent the fact that the American women out there have to listen to complaints of nuns who are upset that they cannot be priests and women who cannot use contraception or have abortion. They are not representing me!!! Where is the presentation of the other side of the issue? Where did you show women happy in their vocation, whatever that may be? Surely if women want to serve God and the church there are endless opportunities. Does that really have to be exclusively the power of consecration and hearing of confessions that will satisfy? And what about avoiding the need for abortion and contraception by using Natural Family Planning? Or are you going to use the usual media line that it is "rhythm" and "Russian Rulette"? Funny, I read somewhere within the last year that China approved of it as one of the "official" means of limiting the size of family. In India and in some developing countries, the variations of the method are taught to illiterate women!! It is only in U.S., the most media savvy, the most "free" the most "informed" country that Natural Family Planning has been a secret. My mother taught it to me from notes that she received from Slovak nuns. These nuns smuggled the information from France to Slovakia in 1960's...If that could be done there, why not here? Talk about liberation of women!!! Women actually are taught to call the shots when to have intercourse!!! God forbid that would happen in U.S.!!! We like to fix our "problems" with pills, however damaging it is to us, women, men, families, as long as enough people will tell us that we are liberated that way.

I will discuss your program with my children and make sure they understand the slant you are putting on your "educational" programming.

Gabriela Sefranek
Champaign, Illinois


I've been turned off to this pope ever since I saw him, at his early visit to the American Eucharistic Congress in Chicago, refuse Holy Communion to a confused man who was holding out his hands as was normal for his diocese; when he finally got that the Pope was insisting that he receive the Eucharist only on his tongue, he was totally crestfallen, but obeyed. That display of authoritanianism plus the ultra conservative pronouncements that he made subsequently over time led made me to just dismiss him.

However, the well-researched and finally-tuned program that Frontline presented made me realize that he was indeed--for reasons of his background, learning and faith--the world spokesman to ask the questions and denounce the appalling evil of our times. We feel it in the depths of our beings and desperately need to continue this dialogue--and to live in the hope he defined.

Ann McLennan
Santa Barbara, CA


Unfortunately, the Frontline story on the Pope was a classical example of the Ken Burns School of Indoctrination. Following this method, the producers used pre-selected people that simply presented so-called human stories or analyses that simply amplified producers bias. Deplorably, indoctrination is not what education should be. Controversial subjects need discussion and presentation of different points of view.

The most biased and even comical was the segment on the Pope and Liberation Theology concluded with the opinion of a pompous chap from The Washington Post deploring the fact that the Catholic Church and the Pope did not join the Marxist revolution in Central and South America. According to this rich Communist sympathizer and anti-Catholic, this revolution would solve the problem of poverty.

Fortunately, the Pope was a better scholar of history and knew that Communism has proven time and time again that when in power, it not only destroys the Church thousands of priests were murdered by Communists but that the poor are the most numerous victims of Communism...

Norman Pieniazek
Suwanee, GA


The program is very nicely produced and you can see how much research and work are being done behind it. I did not step away from the TV at all for the whole 2 1/2 hours. It feels so great to watch an educational, spiritual, excellent program like this. So many good comments to say but I am just so impressed, happy, and speechless :
Looking forward to more program like this. Great work!!!

Christine Leung
Daly City, CA


Your program on John Paul II was a stunning visual experience. At the same time, however, the substance of it was both superficial and unrealistic. The use of sophomoric psychoanalytical speculation to explain the Pontiff's veneration of God's Mother was not only shallow but irritatingly patronizing intellectual indolence and quackery a wilted and discredited device of third rate literary criticism.

Your writers agonizingly tippytoed around the principle reality governing the life of the Holy Father just as it governs the life of any person of faith - the real presence of God in ourselves that is the ineluctable consequence of unconditionally reaching out to His mercy, a consequence that really mediates the events of our lives as we struggle for the gift of His grace.

Even the first Pope, St. Peter, had his moments of darkness and separation from God, denying Christ three times before returning to the light. It's not possible to understand John Paul or honestly represent his life and influence without measuring his propinquity to God and its real consequences often providential, sometimes miraculous.

In essence, your presentation was a fine suit of clothes your graphics dressing up an otiose dwarf your words a sometimes intensely compelling photo journal trivialized by doctrinaire secularism.

Jonathan Robbin
Bethesda, Maryland


Thank you for your beautiful presentation on Pope John Paul II. You are to be congratulated on trying to handle a huge topic in a relatively short period of time.

As Catholics, many of us have a hard time in being truly "Catholic" and seeing the evolving views of the church over the course of 20 centuries. St. Paul told his hearers that "servants should be subject to their masters" and yet over the course of the centuries Christian religious belief became one of the sources which brought down slavery in this country. We are so much caught up in the "present moment" that it is hard to take the "long view" and how Christianity continues to interact with the world. Many of us see "liberation theology and the role of women" in that same light.

I personally disagree with Pope John Paul II's views on these subjects
but I leave it up to the Holy Spirit and the course of history to let it play out.

Thanks again for this documentary and your "From Jesus to Christ" series which I have used in adult religious education. It is far superior to anything I can get from church sources.

Tom McCloskey
Boomingdale, NJ


Dear Frontline,

I watched your story on the life of Pope John Paul II...I could not turn the TV off. I was brought to tears many times in that 2 1/2 hour program.

It brought home the reality of our times.
It was the pure brutality of this century and the program's way of showing how one human's love for God and strength of faith was a message to us that we must end our self serving ways.

As I laid in bed with my sleeping wife, I rapped my arms around her and thanked God for the gift of our child.

Tony Kroska


I was fascinated and appalled by your program. Fascinated because of the Pope's enormous influence on our times. Appalled because what you showed was what led me to leave the Catholic church when I was in my 20s.

The treatment of women in the church has always been upsetting to me. From the Pope's ban on both contraception and abortion to his refusal to allow women to become priests, the church has always made me feel a second class citizen.

As I got older I also felt that overpopulation was going to lead to the eventual destruction of the earth as we know it. The Pope's continual daming of any thing that might help control a population out of control makes me feel that I can never rejoin the church of my childhood.

It is a saddening reality that the church that I loved as a child has become a negative force in my life as an adult.

I can never belong to a chuch that denies my equality to participate in the sacraments as well as tells me that I cannot control my reproductive destiny.

Donna Sullivan
Brookfield, Mass.


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