Frontline pope

Whether you love him, hate him, or can’t quite figure him out, there is no denying that Pope John Paul II has left his mark on both the church and the world during the last twenty years. Certainly one indication of the pope’s stature was the decision of PBS’s prestigious series "Frontline" to inaugurate its new season with a two-and-a-half-hour examination of Karol Wojtyla’s life and papacy on September 28. When it comes to the intricacies of history and the paradoxes of personality, television has inherent limitations. But "John Paul II: The Millennial Pope" was for the most part a visually and dramatically compelling portrait of a complicated, and contradictory, man.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the broadcast was the varied cast of commentators "Frontline" gathered to offer perspectives on someone all agreed is one of the seminal figures of the age. In addition to the more familiar suspects, including University of Cambridge historian Eamon Duffy, Wojtyla biographer (with Carl Bernstein) Marco Politi, reporter Robert Suro, writer James Carroll, and Jewish scholar Arthur Hertzberg, "Frontline" solicited the views of novelist Robert Stone, modern Europe expert Tony Judt, feminist Germaine Greer, and physicist David Berlinski. If the commentaries on the pope’s Marian devotion and opposition to abortion were predictably reductive and psychologized, "Frontline" avoided pat formulations for the most part...

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