ROME — A new documentary chronicles the thought of Pope Saint John Paul II, tracing how his Polish roots helped shape the global Catholic Church.

The film, “I Like to See the Sun Rise,” received an advanced screening at the Angelicum on Thursday where Polish director Paulina Guzik said that while Poles may be proud to claim the late pope as their own, he is a saint of the universal Church.

Guzik, who is also a contributor to Crux, recalled she was not yet born when Karol Wojtyla was elected as pope in 1978, but spoke of seeing the pope throughout her childhood, and most notably for her personally, during the 2000 World Youth Day in Rome. When Krakow played host to World Youth Day in 2016, Guzik served as the coordinator for international media.

The film, she told the crowd on Thursday evening, is in part an explanation of her own efforts not just to treat the now saint as an icon but also to understand his thought.

Clocking in at 52 minutes, with colorful scenes from his global travels, the film devotes extensive attention to his early work, The Acting Person and Love and Responsibility, which would later be developed into his now widely known “Theology of the Body.”

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The film includes interviews with widely known friends and collaborators of the pope, including historian Andrea Riccardi, former politician and scholar Rocco Buttiglione, biographer George Weigel, his long-time secretary Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, and Veteran Vatican journalist Valentina Alazraki, among others.

At the outset of the evening, Father Michal Paluch, the rector of the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, more commonly known as the Angelicum, paid tribute to the late pope who he reminded the audience was “the most famous and most outstanding student,” of the place.

Paluch noted that John Paul II visited the Angelicum twice as pope, though he had regularly visited as bishop. During his 32-year pontificate, he noted that he would always send over Kremówka Papieska, his beloved cream cake.

More substantively, he said that the pope encouraged the students and faculty of the Angelicum to see how the legacy of Aquinas has an ongoing role in shaping the new evangelization.

“We have not forgotten it,” Paluch pledged.

The film’s wider release is set for later next year, timed to coincide with the centenary of what would have been the late pope’s 100th birthday, which is on May 18.

“We made this movie,” said Guzik, “because the centenary is not only a time to have him in our hearts, but also in our minds.”

Follow Christopher White on Twitter: @cwwhite212 

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