Vatican screening of docudrama on Irish Jesuit
Bravery Under Fire, a docudrama feature on the life of Irish WWI Jesuit chaplain Fr Willie Doyle, will have a special screening in the Vatican on 12th October to an invited audience of senior clergy and Catholic leaders.
The film, directed by Co Down Director Campbell Miller, is the story of Fr Willie Doyle SJ, a WWI chaplain from Dublin who served and died ministering to the fallen in 1917 in Ypres, Belgium.
Fr Doyle SJ served with the British Army in Passchendaele, ministering to soldiers of all faith and none including German prisoners and casualties, showing incredible faith and a heroic disregard for his own safety. He was with the 16th Irish Division alongside the Ulster 36th Division.
In order to assist two officers who were dying, Second Lieutenant Arthur Green from Co Down and Second Lieutenant Charles Marlow, a former captain of the King’s Hospital School cricket team, Fr Willie Doyle went into No Man’s Land. According to one account, he was anointing one of the men when a shell burst among them and killed them all including Pte John Meehan, a previous winner of the Military Medal, who had taken shelter there. Their bodies were never recovered from the battlefield.
Director Campbell Miller explains, “We are delighted and very honoured to be invited to show this docudrama in the Vatican to a very high profile audience. ”
“I got to know and understand Fr Willie Doyle very well over time working on this, as did our wonderful cast and crew. He was a man of incredible courage and bravery under fire. His selflessness and humanity towards his fellow man was astonishing and we found it very humbling to bring the story to life in a film. So now to take it to Rome does justice to Fr Willie and his fallen comrades. Men of all faith and none were consoled by his love and compassion in their darkest and most terrifying moments.”
“Fr Doyle made repeated forays into the battlefield and No Man’s land to give the last rites to the wounded and dying" Miller further explains. "Ironically for a man who sought Christian burial for battlefield casualties he lost his own life trying to save others and his body was never recovered. He was revered by Soldiers in the Irish 16th Division but also by the men in the largely Protestant 36th Division.”
"For the Vatican showing the assembled guest list we feel does justice to the memory of Fr Willie Doyle."
The docudrama has already screened to a worldwide audience on EWTN and had its Irish premiere in Newcastle, Co Down in August.
The production was filmed on location in Ireland and Belgium with trench scenes painstakingly recreated and filmed in the depths of winter to attempt to replicate the harrowing conditions on the front line.
Campbell Miller says, “We can only imagine the horror experienced as Fr Doyle ministered in the mud, decay, destruction and terror of unexploded shells and incoming fire.”
One spellbinding and heartrending account describes the Jesuit offering mass for the dead surrounded by the unburied corpses of soldiers, comrades he had served with.