On Monday night, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and his wife Callista came to Georgetown to screen Nine Days that Changed the World, the documentary film that portrays Pope John Paul II’s nine-day trip to Communist Poland in June 1979. The event, hosted by the Catholic Student Association and co-sponsored by the College Republicans, was protester-free, despite the worries that some students waiting in line expressed that the event would be a repeat of the disrupted General David Petraeus event.
Newt and Callista Gingrich narrate the movie, which documents how Pope John Paul’s visit transformed Poland and led to the eventual overthrow of communism. According to its website, the film “is a story of human liberation, revealing the extraordinary power of Pope John Paul II’s worldwide message of freedom through faith.”
Still, protests seemed to be on everyone’s mind, with Kevin Preskenis, the chief of staff of the College Republicans, obliquely referring to the Petraeus protest and calling this screening a “chance for all of us to unite as a Catholic university,” in his introductory remarks. Co-president of the Catholic Student Association Melinda Reyes welcomed the audience to the “non-partisan event.”
In his remarks, Newt Gingrich urged those who enjoy the film to promote it both by word of mouth and social networking sites so it will reach a wider audience.
Callista Gingrich said that the film was about an extraordinary man and a significant moment in time. She said the film traces the late Pope’s visit to Poland after-effects, such at the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. The film uses footage that has not been seen before, she said, since the USSR kept video footage under wraps in the hopes of making it appear as though the Pope did not have many followers.
Father Pawel M. Adamczyk described the events depicted in the documentary as “wonderful and miraculous,” recalling he had seen the Pope when he was a child living in Poland.
Professor Andrzej Kaminski, who is featured in the film, echoed the importance of Pope John Paul II’s visit to Poland and provided an anecdote of his own interaction with the Catholic leader.
“I remember seeing Pope John Paul II and was stupid enough to play poker with him and only didn’t go home naked because he was a good man.” He described him as a man who saw the possibility of goodness in everyone and believes that the documentary “will make a big impact on Poland and other countries,” especially in the light of the tragedy.
Newt Gingrich said the film’s unique portrayal of history should be relatable to modern audiences because its message was “freedom through faith,” which he said was central to the founding of the United States and Georgetown University, and is still important to many struggles around the world today.
Photo by Jackson Perry