“I who am a Son of the land of Poland and who am also Pope John Paul II—I cry from all the depths of this Millennium, I cry on the vigil of Pentecost: Let your Spirit descend. Let your Spirit descend, and renew the face of the earth, the face of this land. Amen.”
This stirring prayer of Pope John Paul II during his visit to Warsaw in 1979 galvanized the Polish people, who were crushed by Communism and forbidden from practicing their faith, even as it instilled hope in the heart of Lech Walesa, head of a movement that would help topple Communism in his country.
“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
In 1987, less than 10 years later, U. S. President Ronald Reagan would deliver words that were equally stirring to the people of Berlin. By the end of 1991, the Berlin Wall, which separated the citizens and families of East and West Berlin, would fall and the Soviet Union would splinter into competing republics. With the smashing of this so-called Iron Curtain, which Pope John Paul II himself had witnessed being built as a child, the Cold War came to an end.
Few know the whole story behind these historic events, events which changed the world. Few know that both the Pope and the President worked together to not only tear down the Wall but to bring down the dictatorship of Communism, which has caused so much misery for so many people.
To remedy this, Authors Paul Kengor and Robert Orlando wrote the bestselling book, “The Divine Plan,” and now they are bringing a beautifully filmed documentary of the same name to EWTN. The 90-minute film airs at 10 p.m. ET, Wednesday, Oct. 21 and 4 p.m. ET, Thursday, Oct. 22.
“The Divine Plan” dives deep into the pivotal bond between Pope John Paul II and President Ronald Reagan. Just six weeks apart in the spring of 1981, the Pope and the President took bullets from would-be assassins. Surviving strikingly similar near-death experiences, they confided to each other a shared conviction: that God had spared their lives for the purpose of defeating communism.
The film features exclusive interviews with renowned historians, scholars, journalist, and church officials including: Douglas Brinkley, H.W. Brands, Anne Applebaum, John O Sullivan, Craig Shirley, George Weigel, close Reagan adviser Richard V. Allen, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, and Bishop Robert Barron.
As a famous actor, we learn that Reagan had personal experience with Communists who were trying to take over the unions in Hollywood. One man even threatened to cut his “movie star face,” which caused him to sleep with a gun.
However, Reagan’s first connection with the Pope came through the evening news, which he was watching with a friend, Richard B. Allen, who would later became his National Security Advisor. Allen says future President was “astounded by the crowd size” and was so “deeply moved by the outpouring of emotion” that he actually “saw a tear in Ronald Reagan’s eye.”
The New York Times would write that while the Pope’s visit to Poland may have inspired its citizens, it didn’t threaten the order of a nation or Eastern Europe. But Reagan saw it differently. It was at that moment that he said to Allen: “We’ve got to find a way to get elected, to reach out to the new Pope and make him an ally.”
And allies they would become. The Pope and the President would meet in person five times over eight years. However, the in-person meetings were only an outgrowth of the letters, telegrams and electronic communications that would go back and forth between them. So deep was their bond that Reagan actually shared classified CIA documents with the Pope, something a leader would only do with an ally. According to the film: “Reagan took the moral aspect of the Cold War more seriously than other American presidents. Others wanted to manage the Cold War. Reagan wanted to win it.”
While both the Pope and President had many problems with Communism, which the film notes was bringing about shortages of food and crumbling factories in the Soviet Union, their two biggest concerns, according to papal biographer George Weigel, had to do with its misreading of human beings and its repression of religious freedom.
“It [Communism] would not acknowledge the inherent dignity and God given value of every individual human life,” Weigel said. “If you don’t get that right, if you don’t get …the idea of the human person right, you are going to make a big mess out of your policy, your society, your economy, your culture.”
Later, Weigel notes that: “Repression of religious freedom is what most bothered both Reagan and the Pope. When you let that genie out of the bottle, you can’t put it back in. … Once a totalitarian state begins to acknowledge one human right, like a tapestry, if you tug hard enough the whole thing will unravel.”
This documentary continues to astound as it reveals the deep spirituality of the two men and even, to a lesser extent of course, Mikhail Gorbachev. The Soviet Leader was another player in this 80s drama, who we discover was secretly baptized as a young child in the Russian Orthodox Church!
Both the Pope and the President delivered their resounding Cold War victories after being shot and disabled. It’s impossible to watch this film and not to be inspired by their courage, their sacrifices and their deep spirituality.
Today, less than 30 years after the celebrated fall of the Berlin Wall, the specter of Communism is once again rearing its demonic head around the world. Watch this film and remember that the freedoms many countries of the world now experience were bought at a price and are now in the hands of the citizens of this generation. How will we respond?
Note: Purchase your own copy of this riveting film at http://bit.ly/TheDivinePlanEWTN.
This movie was wonderful. I had no idea that the Pope John Paul and President Regan were working together to bring down the wall.joyceace9@