Award-winning, powerful St. John Paul II documentary educates new generations of Catholics

When Pope John Paul II passed away on April 2, 2005, hundreds of thousands around the world mourned the loss. Today, an entire generation has no idea who he was or what he accomplished in his lifetime

Many learned a little about Pope John Paul II when he was canonized April 27, 2014, but many of his achievements remain unknown to the younger generations.

Writer and director David Naglieri set out to “cement the legacy of Pope John Paul II” by creating a 90-minute documentary titled “Liberating a Continent: John Paul II and the Fall of Communism.”

Naglieri told CNA: “There’s a generation now that’s graduating college, entering the workforce, that didn’t necessarily live through all these events with the fall of communism. Perhaps they didn’t … have the chance to see Pope John Paul II in person.”

The documentary focuses on St. John Paul’s role in the fall of communism in Eastern Europe.

He lived under oppression for the majority of his life and Nazi Germany invaded his country when he was only 19-years-old. He was forced into manual labor and later was forced to work in a chemical plant.

Refusing to give up, he joined UNIA; a resistance movement created to save Jews from the murderous Nazis. Later, he joined an underground seminary, where he learned to honor human dignity and freedoms.

For the next several years, St. John Paul II, whose given name was Karol Wojtyla, spread Christian morality and promoted “humanism.”

Soviet authorities made his efforts difficult and, at times, impossible to implement, but he refused to give up. When he was elected Pope in 1978, he promoted the simple phrase “Be not afraid.”

With his newfound powers, Pope John Paul II called on the world to defend human rights and set off on a 9-day pilgrimage to “strengthen the brethren” in Poland.

Pope John Paul II was the victim of an assassination attempt.Pope John Paul II was the victim of an assassination attempt.

He warned Communists that the Church would be watching them. He told them to recall their responsibility “before history and before your conscience.” Looking to Communist party banners, he read, “The Part is for the People,” then added, “but the People are for the Pope.”

To further explain St. John Paul II’s efforts, the documentary’s site explains he is: “One of history’s greatest examples of the triumph of spiritual power over violence and oppression is vividly recounted in Liberating a Continent: John Paul II and the Fal of Communism … poignantly captures the intricate role played by John Paul in the collapse of communism and the liberation of Central and Eastern Europe.”

Naglieri proudly explained the documentary stands out because it looked beyond Europe and explained: “how his message not just impacted Poland, but other countries as well.”

To take things a step further, Naglieri added: “And then we tried to connect it to the modern day and to see how John Paul’s legacy continues to impact those who are striving for freedom in Europe.”

The documentary was an 18-month project featuring scenes filmed in several locations including Poland and central Europe.

The film includes interviews with historians, Ronald Reagan’s National Security Advisor, the Prime Minister of Poland, the Archbishop of Lviv, a former Director of the Holy See Press Office, journalists, authors and professors.

Jim Caviezel, the actor playing Christ in Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of Christ,” narrates while Joe Kraemer, famous for his work in the “Mission Impossible” series, composed the documentary’s music.

To learn more about the documentary, please visit

By Kenya Sinclair


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