The story of John Paul II, who has traveled the globe like no other Roman Catholic pontiff, comes to Americans on a PBS video, "John Paul II: The Millennial Pope."
The 2-hour video tells a lot about this remarkable man whose election to the papacy in 1978 was greeted with hope as well as astonishment.
Producer Helen Whitney says Karol Wojtyla, 79, is "a man of extremes and provokes extreme reactions and is a leader we cannot ignore, but often cannot follow. This film is a journey through the 20th century to the sources of his character and his beliefs, and a journey into our passionate reaction to him. It's a journey that says as much about us as it does about him."
When elected pope after the deaths of two popes within months, John Paul II seemed to the world beyond the Vatican to be the most modern of men -- a poet, actor and athlete and an intellectual and media wizard.
In the two decades since, he has reinvigorated the Catholic Church throughout the globe but has also emerged as a man at war with modern culture.
Whitney spent more than a year putting together this show, which includes the fruits of hundreds of interviews gathered in Poland, Mexico, England, Italy and El Salvador as well as the United States. The views come from nuns, priests, rabbis, politicians, scientists, musicians, Holocaust survivors and journalists.
In this video, Whitney illuminates the character of John Paul II, the shaping influence of his youth in Poland, his relationship to people of the Jewish faith, his part in the fall of communism, his battle with liberation theology in Latin America, his conflict with women, his war with modern culture and his exhortation of faith.
The video lists for $19.98 and can be ordered at 1-800-645-4727.
A&E Home Video (1-800-423-1212) also has a one-hour biography, "Pope John Paul II: Statesman of Faith," at $14.95.
Two other public television documentaries about Catholic clergy are available: "Bernardin" and "Author of Reform: The Cardinal Suenens Story." Each of the one-hour videos, produced by Journey Films of Alexandria, is $19.95; call 1-800-486-1070.
"Author of Reform" tells the story of the Belgian cardinal who, according to the film, engineered more progressive reforms in four years during the Second Vatican Council than the church had seen in 400 years.
"Bernardin" explains the life and work of the late Chicago cardinal, addresses the 1993 headlines charging him with sexual abuse (later recanted), and traces his dignified and graceful death from cancer.