June 5, 2010
Newt and Callista Gingrich join EWTN News to discuss their latest documentary, Nine Days that Changed the World.
“Nine Days that Changed the World,” a new documentary, produced by Newt and Callista Gingrich, brings attention to Pope John Paul II’s 1979 visit to Poland and the timeless message of courage and religious freedom he delivered to his fellow Poles and to the world.
Newt and Callista Gingrich told EWTN News in a June 3 interview that their motivation for the film began in 2008 when they were making a documentary about Ronald Reagan. As they interviewed Polish Solidarity leader Lech Walesa and the first president of the Czech Republic, Václav Havel, they realized the significant role that Pope John Paul II played in liberating Eastern Europe from communism.
The couple said that they felt making the movie was just something they had to do.
The Gingriches helped narrate the documentary and interviewed a number of the speakers. Callista also became involved in the technical production. She said she enjoyed working on the soundtrack, which features songs from the Choir of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception – a choir in which she herself has been singing for over a decade.
Her presence in the choir, and her constant witness to her faith through her actions lead Newt down a long road of conversion. Just a year ago, he was received into the Catholic Church. Explaining his conversion, he said, “I don’t think I made a decision to become Catholic. I think I became Catholic over time and then realized it.”
He attributed part of that conversion to seeing the Mass while Callista sang in the choir. He also cited talking to Msgr. Walter Rossi, the rector of the Basilica of the National Shrine, on a pilgrimage to Rome and reading George Wiegel’s book “The Final Revolution.” It gave him a great appreciation for the courage and faith of the late pontiff.
The new Gingrich film focuses on the nine days in June 1979 that Pope John Paul II spent in his home country. He was received by cheering crowds and nearly a third of the country saw him in person. He greeted Poland, a country conquered repeatedly in the last century with the words, “be not afraid.”
In the film, “we really do try to echo his message that no state or government can come between you and God. And that our only freedom, our true freedom, can only be achieved and sustained through our faith,” explained Callista.
“I think this film is going to have great appeal,” Newt asserted. Mentioning countries such as North Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, China and the United States that are dominated by the presence of secularism, he reiterated the universality of John Paul II’s words to the Polish, which assured them of the protection that comes from taking shelter under the Cross.
“The part of the movie that I am the most moved by, emotionally, is the early section about his life under the Nazis and then under the Soviets,” reflected Newt. “When you see it and you realize the courage he must have had and the level of faith that he must have had at 18, or 19 years of age … that allowed him to live a life under a permanent death penalty for five years, that to me is in some ways, the most remarkable part of the movie.”
“The goal was not to make a film that was somehow overtly preachy. The goal was to make a film which allowed you to experience the magic of the Pope and his extraordinary ability, almost saint-like ability, to communicate to people with enormous power,” Newt explained. “It would be more accurate to say that we tried to allow the Pope to guide us. We tried to allow his spirit to guide the film.”
The Pope’s message goes beyond the film in very concrete ways. Giving a talk to the Detroit Chamber of Commerce, Newt found himself using the exhortation “Be not afraid.” He told his listeners to face the future with courage and to learn from the Pope. “I didn’t say that as a preacher, I said that as a political leader trying to describe a moment in time when you can’t allow yourself to be frozen by fear.” That lesson, he said, was learned from studying John Paul II and making this film.
Thus, “Pope John Paul II’s message is as vivid and as important today in your life as it was in Poland in 1979,” asserted the Gingriches.
“Nine Days that Changed the World” will premier in Poland and Rome next week. It has already been shown on university campuses across America.
Newt and Callista Gingrich Remind World of JPII’s Message with New Movie
- on June 7, 2010