Film recalls Pope John Paul II's 1979 visit to Ireland, plea for peace

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Torchia Communications

By Steve Larkin

(CNS) — A new documentary, “John Paul II in Ireland: A
Plea for Peace,” makes the case that the pope’s trip to Ireland in 1979
played a key role in ending the Troubles and bringing about peace in Northern

John Paul II arrived in Ireland, he confronted a giant tree of hate and
terrorism that had been growing for a very long time,” said Carl Anderson, the
executive producer of the film and head of the Knights of Columbus. “At
Drogheda, Ireland, he took an ax and cut at its roots. It would take some time
for this poisonous tree to wither, but eventually it would.”

pope made his trip from Sept. 29 to Oct. 1, 1979, and a third of the population
came to see him.

idea for the documentary came from Lord David Alton, who sits in the British
House of Lords. He has an Irish mother, and he shared his conviction with
Anderson and filmmaker David Naglieri that the pope’s visit helped
bring about peace in Northern Ireland. As a result, they decided to make a
documentary about the pope’s visit and its effects.

make the film, Naglieri went to Ireland six times over an 18-month period and
conducted about 40 interviews with political figures, leaders of social
organizations, priests and others.

aim was to “find these personal stories and extract the deeper meaning,” he told
Catholic News Service.

said the most interesting interview he conducted was with Shane O’Doherty, a
former member of the Irish Republican Army, whose turn away from violence was
inspired by the homily Pope John Paul gave at a Mass in Drogheda.

before, while still a teenager, O’Doherty had carried out a campaign of letter-bombing
for a summer in London.

the sort of person with very strong convictions and a very strong personality,”
Naglieri said.

serving multiple life sentences in prison, O’Doherty heard the pope’s words and
he began to understand the need for repentance and a turning away from

Paul II preaching peace was the wind beneath his wings,” Naglieri said.

thing that interested and impressed Nalglieri was the work done in the peace
process by Redemptorist Father Alec Reid, an Irish priest whose role as facilitator
role in the Northern Ireland peace process has been described as “absolutely
critical” to its success. He died in 2013 at age 82.

hearing Pope John Paul’s words, he reflected on how things might have changed,
and was able to bring Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, and John Hume, the
leader of the Social Democratic and Labor Party, for talks.

was inspired to do so because Pope John Paul also spoke to politicians.

Paul II told politicians that they must remove the causes that lead to
violence, and said that political dialogue is the way forward,” Nalglieri said.

documentary, which is narrated by Jim Caviezel and for which the music was
composed by Joe Kraemer, had its premiere Aug. 23 on WTTW in Chicago. It will
be broadcast on public television stations across the United States.

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Note: For the complete schedule of airings of “John Paul II in Ireland: A Plea
for Peace,” visit The site has additional information about
the film, as a well as a trailer and information on purchasing a DVD. The text
of the pope’s homily at Drogheda can be found at

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