The Divine Plan
Robert Orlando (writer-director), Peter Reznikoff (narrator), Paul Kengor, George Weigel, Anne Applebaum, Douglas Brinkley, Bishop Robert Barron, Cardinal Timothy Dolan
117 min • Rated: PG
Pope John Paul II and President Ronald Reagan each lost his father in his youth. Each clung to faith to guide him through difficult times. Both were actors. Each recognized the evil of atheistic communism and its oppression of human freedom. Each became a world leader, and each was shot and nearly killed in an assassination attempt in the spring of 1981. Most importantly, each believed his life was spared because God wanted him to play a role in the defeat of communism.
The two men bonded over this common goal — and, in the end, they triumphed, having exerted significant influence in such victories as the rise of the Solidarity movement in Poland, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the end of the Cold War.
That all might sound a bit like that oft-published list of coincidences surrounding the Lincoln and Kennedy assassinations, but it’s remarkably true. Most historians agree that this president and this pope played pivotal roles in bringing about popular and peaceful revolution across Central and Eastern Europe and liberating millions from the iron grip of communist rule.
That’s the premise of the documentary film The Divine Plan, which had a limited theatrical run in late 2019 and is now available on DVD, some streaming services, and through the Ignatius Press Parish Screening Program. By way of a retelling of the story along with the recollections and insights of historians, political figures, Church leaders, scholars, and journalists, The Divine Plan makes a rather compelling case.
Reagan and the pope both sensed they had a mission to fulfill, and that sense was only magnified by their near death experiences. In their private meetings, they spoke openly about this shared vision. Reagan himself was known to refer to the “DP,” or “divine plan,” of defeating communism. He felt he had a “rendezvous with destiny,” an apt term he borrowed more than once from FDR.
Reagan found the perfect ally in the Holy Father. Together, with help from above, they altered the course of history.
GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.