Ukrainian Archbishop Kiril Lakota is set free after twenty years as a political prisoner in Siberia. He is brought to Rome by Father David Telemond, a troubled young priest who befriends ...
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In 1929, Italian Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini appoints General Rodolfo Graziani as colonial governor to Italian Libya with orders to stamp-out all resistance from Libyan nationalists led by rebel guerrilla leader Omar Mukhtar.
Ukrainian Archbishop Kiril Lakota is set free after twenty years as a political prisoner in Siberia. He is brought to Rome by Father David Telemond, a troubled young priest who befriends him. Once at the Vatican, he is immediately given an audience with the Pope, who elevates him to Cardinal Priest. The world is on the brink of war due to a Chinese-Soviet feud made worse by a famine caused by trade restrictions brought against China by the U.S. When the Pontiff suddenly dies, Lakota's genuine character and unique life experience move the College of Cardinals to elect him as the new Pope. But Pope Kiril I must now deal with his own self-doubt, the struggle of his friend Father Telemond, who is under scrutiny for his beliefs, and find a solution to the crisis in China.
The coronation tiara worn by Pope Kiril I in this movie, is a copy of the coronation tiara worn by Pope Paul VI. See more »
Kiril Lakota is taken from a Siberian labor camp to Moscow over a water route during winter. This is a very slow and impractical route. See more »
[the Soviet representative has just informed Kiril of the conditions of his release, namely that he keep silent about conditions in the USSR]
I cannot accept these conditions.
Piotr Ilyich Kamenev:
They have been accepted for you.
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With respect to those viewers who evaluate this film as entertainment, to fully appreciate and understand the many sub-plots, a viewer would have to understand something about Roman Catholic theology, the currents of 1968, and the popular philosophy of the French Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin with some people such as the author of the book, Morris L. West. The Oskar Werner character of Father David Telemond is a good surrogate and advocate for Chardin but he is not Chardin. Chardin is mentioned by Werner during the inquiry of the Papal Commission into Father Telemond's writings. The real Chardin believed in what Telemond calls "The Cosmic Christ" "the point to which all of human evolution is advancing." Telemond and Chardin would explain that a good God still allows man to use free will to chose the wrong things, to commit crimes, even mass crimes such as war, because those things are part of the natural breakage that always happens in any production process. But they would also argue that faith would ultimately bring mankind closer to God on a very long but not infinite timetable. Pope Kiril thinks there is beauty and power in Telemond's writings but cannot understand Telemond's views on theology. "There is little of the Catholic faith as I know it in your writing." The Pope tells him that faith alone saved him from insanity in the Gulag of Siberia in the USSR. In his background, fundamental toughness, and simple faith, the fictional Pope Kiril (1968) is an amazing precursor to the real Pope John Paul II (1978). Tellemond protests, "God is there but by a different name." Telemond is finally accused by Cardinal Leone of heresy because he says that if his faith were taken away he would still believe in the world and its goodness--an idealistic but still secular world view. Pope Kiril is willing to sell off the wealth of the Church to help starving Chinese people because he understands that is the only way to prove to Chairman Peng and the world that the church believes in what it preaches. The loneliness of his decision is framed by terror when Cardinal Leone tells him, "This is Calvary, Holiness, and you have just begun to climb." That is the most profound line of a great many profound lines in the movie. One does not have to be an intellectual to appreciate the film which succeeds on its own terms as entertainment. But people who think it is boring just have no concept of what the film is really about. For acting and content, this is one of the best films of the last 50 years.
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