Pope: The Most Powerful Man in History
Episode Six: Courage, Change, & the Modern Papacy
CNN, originally aired 4/15/18
This episode is the last installment in the CNN series and it deals almost exclusively with the 1978-2005 papacy of Karol Wojtyla aka Pope John Paul II.
When Wojtyla was elected pope in 1978, tensions were already escalating in his native Poland between its citizens and the oppressive, Soviet-controlled government. Through direct and indirect means, Wojtyla influenced his countrymen to agitate for political and religious freedoms. Under rising pressures, the communist government voluntarily relinquished power in 1989. Wojtyla won admirers throughout the world for his role in the liberation of Poland. It’s quite ironic that John Paul II’s papal predecessors of the not-too-distant past (as late as the first four decades of the 20th century) regularly entered into concordats with national governments of Catholic-dominated countries, which severely limited the religious freedoms of Protestants.
This segment notes Wojtyla’s significance in the way he changed the world’s perception of the papacy. Due to his extensive globe trotting and his direct involvement in international politics and ecumenical initiatives, Wojtyla changed the image of the pope from an arcane, sectarian religious leader into a global figure of international importance. Biblical prophecy anyone? When the world’s inhabitants are threatened by an apocalyptic crisis, there is only one religious leader they will turn to; the pope. Wojtyla was instrumental in elevating the papacy to its current preeminent position in the eyes of the world.
I enjoyed this series quite a bit. Much of the information that’s presented is in stark contrast to the idealized versions of the papacy and church history that are fed to Catholicism’s credulous membership. As I’ve mentioned previously, the series’ glaring drawback is its lack of a conservative evangelical voice among the many commentators. Below are links to my reviews of the the previous five episodes: