The Vatican’s Paul VI Hall hosted a screening of a new documentary on the life of Pope John Paul II on Thursday afternoon. Following the film, Pope Benedict XVI praised the affectionate tribute for its ability to convey the “valor and evangelical passion” of the late Pope.
The new film, which is called “Testimony” is based on the book "A Life with Karol" by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, who was John Paul II´s personal assistant, and the Italian journalist Gian Franco Svidercoschi.
With the final scenes of “Testimony” echoing in the minds of the audience, Pope Benedict offered his reflections on the documentary.
The film "takes our minds back to that late evening of October 16, 1978, thirty years ago today, which has remained engraved in everyone's heart" Benedict XVI said recalling the late Pope´s first words to the crowd waiting to greet their new shepherd, "If I make a mistake [in the language] you will correct me."
Encapsulating the life of the Pontiff, Pope Benedict said, "We could say that the pontificate of John Paul II is enclosed between two expressions: ‘Open the doors to Christ! Do not be afraid,’ and his words on his deathbed: ‘Let me go to the house of the Father’.”
“Testimony,” the Holy Father noted, reveals “previously unknown episodes,” and displays “the human simplicity, the firm courage and, finally, the suffering of John Paul II, which he faced to the end with his inborn hardiness and the patience of a humble servant of the Gospel."
"The film also gives us a better understanding of John Paul II's homeland, Poland, and of its cultural and religious traditions," said the Pope. "It enables us to revisit famous events in ecclesial and civil life, and episodes of which most people are unaware. The whole story is recounted with the affection of one who shared closely in these events, living in the shadow of their protagonist."
Pope John Paul II left a mark on the history of the Church and the world, Pope Benedict noted, and "thanks to this film" those who did not know him "have a way of appreciating his valor and evangelical passion."
After thanking Cardinal Dziwisz, who remained at Karol Wojtyla's side for 39 years, and the director of the film and his associates, Benedict XVI reiterated John Paul II's invitation, "do not be afraid," and told those present, many of whom were Poles, to "bear witness to Christ courageously."
"Testimony" was directed by the Polish director Pawel Pitera and filmed in the Vatican, Krakow, Wadowice (Karol Wojtyla’s birthplace), Rome, Portugal and Germany. It is narrated by Cardinal Dziwisz himself and by the English actor, Michael York.