Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II

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9780060732035: Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II

The Definitive Biography of Pope John Paul II

Witness to Hope is the authoritative biography of one of the singular figures -- some might argue the singular figure -- of our time. With unprecedented cooperation from John Paul II and the people who knew and worked with him throughout his life, George Weigel offers a groundbreaking portrait of the Pope as a man, a thinker, and a leader whose religious convictions defined a new approach to world politics -- and changed the course of history. As even his critics concede, John Paul II occupied a unique place on the world stage and put down intellectual markers that no one could ignore or avoid as humanity entered a new millennium fraught with possibility and danger.

The Pope was a man of prodigious energy who played a crucial yet insufficiently explored role in some of the most momentous events of our time, including the collapse of European communism, the quest for peace in the Middle East, and the democratic transformation of Latin America. This updated edition of Witness to Hope explains how this "man from a far country" did all of that, and much more -- and what both his accomplishments and the unfinished business of his pontificate mean for the future of the Church and the world.

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Review:

Witness To Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II by George Weigel is as comprehensive a biography of its subject as can be hoped for while the Pope still lives. Weigel, a journalist who came to the Pope's attention after the publication of his book, The Final Revolution: The Resistance Church and the Collapse of Communism, wrote Witness To Hope with his subject's encouragement and assistance. Weigel had unprecedented access to the Pope's correspondence (with, among others, world leaders including Mikhail Gorbachev). He reports lengthy conversations with many members of the Pope's inner circle, and he occasionally reveals vivid details of the Pope's daily life (for example, at the beginning of each day, the Pope's adviser's hear moans and groaning from John Paul's solitary prayers in his private chapel).

According to Weigel, the Pope told him that other biographies "try to understand me from outside. But I can only be understood from inside." Unfortunately, Weigel's method for understanding the Pope "from inside" depends on psychological conjecture ("It may help to begin by thinking of Karol Wojtyla as a man who grew up very fast") and is weakened by his extreme eagerness to praise his subject ("the man with arguably the most coherent and comprehensive vision of the human possibility in the world ahead"). More troubling, Weigel does not ask some of the really difficult questions about this Pope--regarding his involvement with sects such as Opus Dei, for example, or the relationship between his innovative "theology of the body" and his conservative stance on homosexuality, or even the vicissitudes of prayer life. Witness To Hope is a valuable book because it reports many facts that others have not reported. But for incisive analysis of this Pope's theological and political significance, or for insight into his spiritual life, readers will have to wait until the principals in his life story are free to speak more frankly with some future biographer. --Michael Joseph Gross

About the Author:

George Weigel is one of the world's foremost authorities on the Catholic Church and the author of the New York Times bestseller Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II. He is a Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., and a consultant on Vatican affairs for NBC News.

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