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Gingriches screen film on Pope John Paul II

More than 700 people packed Finnegan Fieldhouse for the screening.

Posted: Tuesday, November 23, 2010

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Newt and Callista Gingrich introduce their film, Nine Days That Changed the World.

Students react to Nine Days that Changed the World and the remarks made by Newt and Callista Gingrich.

STEUBENVILLE, Ohio—“When Pope John Paul II went to Poland in June 1979 and held an open-air Mass, three million people showed up,” former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich told an audience of over 600 at Franciscan University of Steubenville Monday night. “They looked around and suddenly realized, ‘There are more of us than there are of them. Why should we be afraid of them?’”

Gingrich and his wife, Callista, visited the University for a screening of their documentary, Nine Days That Changed the World, about Pope John Paul II, his pilgrimage to Poland at the beginning of his papacy, and its effect on the fall of Communism.

“I was amazed to discover how much he lived through, the level of courage he lived out, and the degree to which ‘be not afraid’ was about his own life,” Newt Gingrich said. “Think about your own life and your country and how John Paul II grew up under the Nazis and later the Soviets in much greater danger than we face today. And he came out saying, ‘Be not afraid.’”

The Gingriches hope to “extend the message of John Paul II far beyond Poland and far beyond 1979” through the documentary, said Callista Gingrich, who served with her husband as executive producer and co-host of the 90-minute documentary.

Two key elements of that message were his call to “be not afraid” and the image of the cross.

In the ideological struggle with atheistic Communism, the cross became a symbol of the faith, culture, and strength of the Polish people, the documentary showed. Through his consistent message of “be not afraid,” John Paul II reminded the Poles who they are, Newt Gingrich said: a people formed by faith and culture.

The fall of Communism was not caused by anti-Communism, he said, but by pro-Christianity. The Gingriches hoped to convey this often-minimized role of Christianity in the collapse of Communism through the film.

“We hope you find this movie as powerful, and frankly, as spiritually moving as we found making it,” Newt Gingrich said.

The Franciscan University community responded enthusiastically to the film, with a standing ovation and thunderous applause lasting through the end of the credits. Many of the students, faculty, and staff who packed Finnegan Fieldhouse brought home a copy of the DVD to share with family and friends. The film can be previewed at

“It was very moving, very well done,” said Jamie Bugos, a senior nursing student from Oklahoma. “I’m so glad we were able to see it!”

“Like they said in the movie, it was not so much Communism that was the problem as denial of the cross, denial of our Catholic identity,” said Daniel Woltornist, a junior political science major from New Jersey. “It’s great to see someone putting the Catholic identity out there, not being ashamed of it.”

Sponsored by the Franciscan University Advancement Office, the Gingriches’ presentation of Nine Days That Changed the World was the latest event in the Distinguished Speakers Series, which features leaders recognized for exemplary service to the Church and society.

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