When Jim Caviezel was young, he had to stay home to study Spanish while his family went to see John Paul II during his visit to Vancouver, British Colombia. He missed out on that chance to see the pope. But 20 years later, having a well-established career in the cinema and having earned the right to play the role of Jesus of Nazareth in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, he got a second chance.
There are two parts to his meeting with John Paul II, which Caviezel recounted on separate occasions. One is serious; the other hilarious. Together with his wife and in-laws, he had the chance to greet and converse with the pontiff — who has since been canonized — for five minutes in 2004, around the time of year the movie premiered. The first thing Caviezel did was thank him for his jubilee letter to artists, which had had a profound impact on the actor. He also thanked the pope for the importance he gave to the Virgin Mary in his pontificate.
But he also shared with the pontiff how he had prepared to play the role of Jesus in The Passion, in response to a question from the pope. On the Larry King Live program, the day before the Polish pope’s death, Caviezel recounted that when the pope asked him how he had prepared to play the part of Jesus, Caviezel nervously answered that he had been hanging out with Italians … and he said, “I think Jesus was Italian.”
In response to the pope’s surprise, the actor continued: “He didn’t leave home until he was 30. He always hung out with the same 12 guys, and his mother believed he was God, so he had to be — you know, he had to be Italian.”
With a straight face, John Paul II answered, “That was witty. He was Polish.”
Read more at Aleteia.