Gingrich to present documentary on Pope John Paul II

Former U.S. House Speaker and potential presidential candidate Newt Gingrich and his wife, Callista, will present their dual-award-winning documentary on Pope John Paul II and his pilgrimage to Poland in 1979 at the Varsity Theatre at 7 p.m. tonight.

A book and DVD signing will follow the film’s screening. The event is free and open to the public, but tickets must be obtained in the Brooks Lounge. There is a maximum of two tickets per person.

The documentary, “Nine Days that Changed the World,” focuses on how the pope’s visit sparked the Polish shift from Communism. It also distinguishes between religion and government, Gingrich said in an interview following the film’s 2010 premiere.

“It’s a message that says freedom is based on faith and a message that says no government can come between you and God,” he said in the interview.

The documentary recently received two Telly Awards, which recognize commercial and television programs, as well as video and film Internet productions. The awards were received in the categories of Religion and Spirituality and History and Biography.

Ethan Hollenberger, a sophomore in the College of Business Administration and president of the College Republicans — one of the organizations co-sponsoring the event — said the film addresses freedom of speech and religion.

Hollenberger also said although some might question how “virtuous” Gingrich is, any time a major political figure comes to the university, it is a great event.

“It doesn’t matter if you agree politically with him or not,” he said. “There is always something to be learned from these famous figures.”

Gingrich is commonly recognized for leading the Republicans in retaking the House from 40 years of Democratic majority in 1994. He served as Speaker from 1995-’99, during which time he helped pass welfare reform, balanced the budget and implemented the first tax cut in 16 years, according to his website.

Now Gingrich travels the world as a public speaker and has published 23 books, with 13 of them recognized as New York Times best-sellers.

In an interview Sunday with Fox News, the former House Speaker said he plans to enter the 2012 presidential race within the next month.