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‘The Secrets of Saint John Paul’
(DVD / NR / 2016 / PBS)

Overview: ‘The Secrets of Saint John Paul’ reveals details previously unknown correspondence between Pope John Paul II, now Saint John Paul II in the Catholic Church, and an American woman. Witness the intimate side of the life of a saint, kept secret for decades.

DVD Verdict: Pope John Paul II, born Karol Józef Wojtyla, was ordained in 1946, and in 1978, became the first Polish pope and first non-Italian Pope in more than 400 years. He served as head of the Catholic Church until his passing in 2005. Beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2011, he was canonized by Pope Francis in 2014.

That same year, BBC broadcaster Edward Stourton was ushered into a room in one of Europe’s most celebrated libraries. Watched over by its director, he was shown a pile of papers so sensitive that only a handful of staff knew of their existence.

He was looking at a collection of hundreds of personal letters between one of the 20th century’s great public figures—Pope John Paull II—and a Polish American woman, Anna-Theresa Tymieniecka. The letters reveal a deeply intimate friendship that lasted for decades and show the private side of a man who was known and beloved around the world.

The two first came in contact in the early 1970s, when Wotyjal was archbishop of Krakow, Poland. He had published a philosophical book and Tymieniecka, herself a philosopher and Polish-born, reached out to him in hopes of translating the text into English.

Their relationship evolved from one of professional collaboration to a personal friendship between intellectual equals who relished discussing philosophical issues. As their friendship developed, Tymieniecka joined him on a vacation in the Polish countryside and he visited her and her family at their New Hampshire home. The two remained close friends throughout his nearly three-decades-long papacy as he led 1.2 billion Catholics in their faith. ‘The Secrets of Saint John Paul’ is a fascinating watch, and will open your eyes to something that, perhaps, you just had no clue about even today. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.