"Love and Mercy" Wows the Vatican

March 6, 2019 - With distinguished guests and journalists from around the world on hand, the Vatican played host Tuesday evening to the premiere of the feature-length film "Love and Mercy," a docudrama on St. Faustina and her Divine Mercy revelations. The film will be released worldwide later this year.

"The idea to create 'Love and Mercy' first came to me two years ago after reading the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska," said the director, Michael Kondrat, who filmed in his native Poland as well as at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and locations in Lithuania, Mexico, Belarus, Colombia, and Italy.

Guests included the Most Rev. Salvatore De Giorgi, archbishop of Palermo, Italy. In opening remarks inside the cinema hall of the Vatican Film Archive on Tuesday, he referred to St. Faustina as "a figure of fundamental importance" who has helped the world rediscover the Gospel message of God's merciful love for all mankind.

On the Eve of an Anniversary
Upon entering the cinema hall, the invited guests were first treated to a delightful dose of irony.

It came in the form of an old newspaper clipping first published 60 years ago on the front page of L'Osservatore Romano, copies of which were made available Tuesday evening for the taking. The clipping, from March 7, 1959, contained a notice issued the previous day by the Holy Office that prohibited the promotion of the Divine Mercy devotion in the forms proposed by Sr. Faustina. The ban was lifted nearly 20 years later, following an investigation that authenticated Faustina's mystical experiences and Divine Mercy writings.

Tuesday's screening, on the eve of the anniversary of the ban, stands as the latest triumph in the Divine Mercy movement since those cautionary measures were taken.

In the years since the ban's lifting, Divine Mercy has become the greatest grassroots movement in the history of the Church. Saint Faustina's Diary has since become a modern spiritual classic published in dozens of languages. The Divine Mercy Image, requested by Jesus and painted under St. Faustina's direction, has since become one of the most recognized religious images in the world.

Pope St. John Paul II proclaimed Faustina the first saint of the new millennium in 2000. On that same day, he also established "Divine Mercy Sunday" as a special title for the Octave Sunday of Easter for the universal Church, as Jesus requested through St. Faustina. John Paul II called the mercy message given to St. Faustina "the appropriate and incisive answer that God wanted to offer to the questions and expectations of human beings in our time, marked by terrible tragedies."

It was only fitting that the Vatican screening took place in the small theater that St. John Paul II frequently used, a former chapel used to care for the wounded during World War I.

Divine Mercy has been embraced and enthusiastically promoted by St. John Paul II's successors, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.

History Brought to Life
Also attending the screening were the starring actors, Kamila Kaminska and Maciej Malysa, who played the roles of Sr. Faustina and her confessor, Fr. Michael Sopocko, respectively. Mr. Malys played alongside John Voight in the famous movie "John Paul II."

Attendees also included the vicar general of the Marian Fathers, Rev. Joseph G. Roesch, MIC, who provided voiceovers in the film; and the provincial superior of the Marian Fathers' United States province, the Very Rev. Fr. Kaz Chwalek, MIC, who appears in the film and served as an advisor to Mr. Kondrat.

In opening remarks, Mr. Kondrat thanked Fr. Kaz for "substantive help and spiritual help" throughout the production of the film. Indeed, he said he experienced spiritual attacks throughout the filming, an indication that the project is an important work. After all, he said, his film centers on a saint "chosen by God to prepare the world for His final coming."

"Divine Mercy is changing millions of lives, but most Christians are still unaware of the power of the message that Jesus gave to humanity through Sr. Faustina, a simple Polish nun who is now a saint," said Mr. Kondrat, whose previous films include "Two Crowns," dedicated to the life of St. Maximilian Kolbe.

In "Love and Mercy," filmed in English, he dramatizes key moments in St. Faustina's life and the difficulties and triumphs that accompanied the spread of the message following her death in 1938.

One day this poor, faithful Polish farm girl with little formal education has her life irreversibly upturned when Jesus appears to her in a vision. Jesus commissions her to proclaim the truth of His mercy in order to prepare the world for His final coming.

Featured scenes include her call from Jesus to enter the convent; her relationship with Fr. Sopocko, the priest sent by Christ to help her carry out her mission; the often frustrating process of creating the Divine Mercy Image, as Jesus requested; her and Fr. Sopocko's trust in Christ amidst the many spiritual trials; and the handing off of key Divine Mercy documents to a Marian priest, Fr. Joseph Jarzebowski, MIC, who escaped to America to fulfill his promise to promote Divine Mercy.

Interviews with present-day scholars and promoters of her message are interspersed among the dramatic portrayals.

The film breaks new ground with discoveries of original writings from now-Blessed Sopocko. Viewers may be shocked to learn that the artist who painted the original Divine Mercy Image, Eugene Kazimirowski, was a freemason who eventually killed himself. But before his death, he painted self portraits portraying himself as Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus.

The film also delves into the scientific research that shows the identical features of Christ in the Divine Mercy Image to the facial features and figure immortalized on the Shroud of Turin.

"When the film was over, I just uttered, 'Wow!'" Joan Lewis, Rome bureau chief for EWTN, said following the screening.

The film will be released in Poland later this month. Mr. Kondrat has pushed back the film's release in the United States to early fall. There are no details yet on where and when it will be shown in the United States, but he expects it to screen in about 800 theaters throughout the country. The film will also be released in theaters throughout Europe, Asia, and the Americas.

We will keep you updated on the film's release dates as the information becomes available.

Watch the trailer for "Love and Mercy":




Here's Rome Report's piece on the film following the Vatican screening:



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