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Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II

By George Weigel (Author)
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Item description for Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II by George Weigel...

Outline ReviewWitness 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

Product Description

Given unprecedented access to Pope John Paul II and the people who have known and worked with him throughout his life, George Weigel presents a groundbreaking portrait of the Pope as a man, a thinker, and a leader whose religious convictions have defined a new approach to world politics--and changed the course of history.

John Paul II has systematically addressed every major question on the world's agenda at the turn of the millennium: the human yearning for the sacred, the meaning of freedom, the glories and challenges of human sexuality, the promise of the women's movement, the quest for a new world order, the nature of good and evil, the moral challenge of prosperity, and the imperative of human solidarity in the emerging global civilization.By bringing the age-old wisdom of biblical religion into active conversation with contemporary life and thought, the Pope "from a far country" has crafted a challenging proposal for the human future that is without parallel in the modern world.

Weigel explores new information about the Pope's role in some of the recent past's most stirring events, including the fall of communism; the Vatican/Israel negotiation of 1991-92; the collapse of the Philippine, Chilean, Nicaraguan, and Paraguayan dictatorships during the 1980s; and the epic papal visit to Cuba. Weigel also includes previously unpublished papal correspondence with Leonid Brezhnev, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Deng Xiaoping, and draws on hitherto unavailable autobiographical reminiscences by the Pope.

Witness to Hope also discusses the Pope's efforts to build bridges to other Christian communities, and to Judaism, Islam, and other great world religions; presents an analysis of John Paul's proposals for strengthening democratic societies in the twenty-first century; and offers synopses of every major teaching document in the pontificate.

Rounding out the dramatic story of Pope John Paul II are fresh translations of his poetry; detailed personal anecdotes of the Pope as a young man, priest, and friend, sketched by those who knew him best; and in-depth interviews with Catholic leaders throughout the world.

A magisterial biography of one of the most important figures--some might argue, the most important figure--of the twentieth century, Witness to Hope is an extraordinary testimony to the man and his accomplishments, and a papal biography unlike any other.

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Item Specifications...

Format: Abridged,   Audiobook
Studio: HarperAudio
Pages   272
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 7" Width: 4.4" Height: 1.4"
Weight:   0.55 lbs.
Binding  Audio Cassette
Release Date   Nov 1, 1999
Publisher   HarperAudio
ISBN  0694522279  
ISBN13  9780694522279  
UPC  099455029957  

Availability  0 units.

More About George Weigel

George Weigel GEORGE WEIGEL, Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington s Ethics and Public Policy Center, is one of the world s leading authorities on the Catholic Church. The Vatican analyst for NBC News, Weigel is the author of fifteen books, including the"New York Times"bestseller"Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II." His work has been translated into more than a dozen languages."

George Weigel currently resides in Bethesda, in the state of Maryland. George Weigel was born in 1951 and has an academic affiliation as follows - Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington, DC the Ethics and Public.

George Weigel has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Library of Religious Biography
  2. Month by Month Gardening
  3. Pennsylvania-German History and Culture Series

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Reviews - What do customers think about Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II?

Pope John Paul the Great  Mar 28, 2008
This was a fascinating book that covered the life of Pope John Paul the Great as well as his Papacy. Many of the details of his efforts especially his world-wide pastoral ministry, an outgrowth of his work as a pastor and Archbishop of Krakow, were not well covered by the world media. Most of what we gleaned was the political-diplomatic side of the Vatican. The press, especially the U.S. press, had no understanding of the true meaning of his Papacy. Of particular note, was his endeavor to bring about the fulfillment of Vatican II, the close relationship with youth that we established throughout his life and ministry, and his aims and encyclicals that defined and raised up the dignity of the human person.

If you want to see the Church as you will never see it reported, and understand your faith better, this is the book for you.
Jan Tyranowski  Apr 12, 2007
There is a fiery, mystical core to the young Wojtyla's faith. It is the deepest, darkest layer of the soil which has nourished him throughout his life. All his early heroes are passionate visionaries: the strange, otherworldly Jan Tyranowski; the Spanish mystic, St. John of the Cross; the stigmatic faith healer, Padre Pio. Their emotional, poetic view of the world has sustained him throughout his life. This is a man for whom the great religious truths are viscerally experienced. Christ is alive and walks the earth; the Virgin is a real woman; the Devil is a person not an abstraction. Good and evil are powerful autonomous forces battling each other--the powers of darkness and light. As Pope, he has attended exorcisms, and even officiated at one.
Arguably the most important of all his spiritual mentors was Jan Tyranowski. He met Tyranowski on a cold Saturday afternoon in February 1940, at a weekly discussion group in the parish church; it was a crucial moment in Wojtyla's life. Tyranowski was a strange man--a forty year-old tailor with white-blond hair, a high-pitched laugh and piercing eyes. Neighbors spoke to us about his oddness and his intensity. He was a bachelor who lived with his mother in a small apartment across the street from the Wojtylas. Tyranowski's small rooms were filled with stacks of religious books, sewing machines and several cats. He would stop young men on the street and try to interest them in joining his "Living Rosary," a praying circle and theology discussion group for young people. He recruited youngsters so aggressively that one of them, Mieczyslaw Malinski, the future priest and seminarian friend of Wojtyla, remembers being alarmed by his intrusive personal questions and worried that he might be a Gestapo agent. Father Malinski told us that it took him a long while to warm up to "this bizarre character who talked in a high-pitched affected voice."
Wojtyla, however, was immediately gripped by Tyranowski's personality and the power of his ideas. Tyranowski and Wojjtyla spent an increasing amount of time together discussing the Scriptures and mystical philosophers such as St. Theresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross. Malinski tried to argue with Karol about this strange man and even brought up rumors that he had been in a mental institution. Father Malinski wrote about Karol's response in his own biography of the Pope: "Tyranowski has gone through a major life-changing conversion. Look at what is inside him, not his outward experience. Yes, he speaks in a slightly odd, affected manner, but look beyond that. He is a man who lives truly close to God." For Karol, Tyranowski was aflame with God--and this closeness to the flame was an irresistible quality for the young Karol and would remain so for the rest of his life.
Ultimately, Father Malinski grew attached to Jan Tyranowski and entered the rigorous world of The Living Rosary: "When Karol and I committed ourselves to this prayer group, it was all-encompassing. Every moment of the day was organized around activity and relaxation. We were asked to keep detailed records of our prayers and thoughts. Tyranowski took us through each stage very calmly and methodically until we reached the central core of his teaching--what he called the plenitude of inner life. His influence on Lolek was gigantic. I can safely say that were it not for him, neither Wojtyla nor I would have become priests."
Wojtyla later wrote about this defining experience: "What Tyranowski wanted to do was work on our souls--to bring out the resources he knew existed within us." Karol was particularly struck by the quiet, mystical core of his teaching and he remembered vividly the day and hour when his teachings sank into him: "Once in July when the day was slowly extinguishing itself, the word of Jan Tyranowski became more and more lonely in the falling darkness, penetrating us deeper and deeper, releasing in us the hidden depths of evangelical possibilities which until then we had tremblingly avoided...Tyranowski was truly one of those unknown saints, hidden among others like a marvelous light at the bottom of life at a depth where night usually reigns. He disclosed to me the riches of his inner life, of his mystical life. In his words, in his spirituality, and in the example of a life given to God alone, he represented a new world that I did not yet know. I saw the beauty of a soul opened up by grace. "
One of the Pope's most insightful biographers (and our consultant), Tad Szulc, believes that the influence of Tyranowski on the young Wojtyla flowed from their shared attraction to the mystical quality of spiritual life: "Tyranowski gave a wholly new dimension and understanding to Karol's instinctive mysticism and, as much as any profound experience of his young years, it set him on a course towards the priesthood...his mystical legacy to Karol Wojtyla was the 16th century poet and mystic, St. John of the Cross and the desire for the contemplative life." (In fact, after he became a priest, Wojtyla, on two separate occasions, requested permission from his superiors to enter a Carmelite monastery; each time they refused, believing his gifts lay elsewhere.)
On February 18, 1941, exactly one year after he met Tyranowski, Karol suffered possibly his greatest loss--the death of his father. Unlike his calm demeanor and stoic submission to God's will following the deaths of his mother and brother, the loss of his father provoked a torrent of tears and visible pain. He lamented bitterly that he had not been present when his father died. His friend, Maria Kydrynska, was with Karol when they returned home to discover that Karol Wojtyla Sr. had died of a heart attack in bed. She described the scene vividly to Tad Szulc before she died a few years ago: "Karol, weeping, embraced me. He said through his tears, 'I was not present when my mother died, nor when my brother died.'" The apartment was too painful to stay in alone, so he moved in with the Kydrynskas. Years later, John Paul II told the writer Andre Frossard: "I never felt so alone." His friend Father Malinski observed him going to the cemetery every day to pray at his father's grave and said to us, "Karol was so distraught that I was truly worried about him."
From that point onwards, Karol spent a great deal of time with his mentor, Jan Tyranowski, but it would take a year and a half for his vocation to take final shape. Years later the Pope would reflect on the mystery of his vocation in his memoir: "At 20 I had already lost all the people I loved. God was, in a way, preparing me for what would happen....After my father's death I became aware of my true path. I was working at a plant and devoting myself, as far as the terrors of the occupation allowed, to my taste in literature and drama. My priestly vocation took place in the midst of all that--I knew that I was called with absolute clarity."
His reticence--or detachment--is exemplified in his friendship with the theater director, Mieczyslaw Kotlarczyk. Biographer Tad Szulc has described him as "Karol's intellectual, cultural and thespian mentor, the most important person in Karol's life after his father and Tyranowski." For an entire year during the Nazi occupation when all travel was restricted, Karol and Kotlarczyk wrote letters to each other that Halina Krolikiewicz, an actress in the Rhapsodic Theater, would smuggle back and forth from Krakow to Wadowice. Karol's letters were unusually revealing--up to a point. "I surround myself with Books. I put up fortifications of Art and Learning. I work. Will you believe me when I tell you that I am almost running out of time. I read, write, learn, pray and fight within myself. Sometimes I feel horrible pressures, sadness, depression, evil." What is striking about this letter is that Karol could not share, or would not share, his great inner conflict. His friend Lorenzo Albacete described Karol's unusual detachment: "He lived in the most intense solitude, a burning loneliness, and to some extent it was all goes back to St. John of the Cross, to his exhortation of emptying yourself, stripping away ordinary human supports..."

The classic bio of one of our greatest modern leaders  Mar 28, 2007
This book is simply superb. It is very long, but the length is justified by the importance of the material and the quality of its handling. Wiegel gives you a long, slow build which describes in great detail every aspect of John Paul II's life. He balances the different aspects of his material extremely well; he will jump from a description of personal events, for example, to a detailed discussion of a philosophic or theological point, but he does so in a way that is easy to read and easy to follow.

This book assumes very little knowledge on the part of the reader, but it conveys a tremendous amount of knowledge. This is a great service, because most of us know very little, for example, about early 20th century Polish culture, yet it is critical to understand this to understand John Paul II. In the same way, there are many subjects which you have to understand to understand John Paul II and Wiegel does a great job of explaining the basics of each, from 20th century philosophy to Eastern European communist politics, and from the political and theological leanings of the Amercan Church to the cult of Mary.

Too much of the time we get bios by writers who know nothing about their subject's areas of activitiy. We get, for example, bios of Napoleon by writers who know nothing about military affairs. We get bios of Plato by people with little understanding of philosophy.

This is not one of those books. Wiegel has made himself the master of all of the subjects needed to understand this amazing man. This book will take you a long time to read, but it is all time well spent.
Superior in every way  Jan 29, 2007
Its not often that one reads a truly great book, a book that is well-written,informative,moving, and inspiring. This book is such a book. While to some this book might be dauntingly long, it well worth the time and is really not a difficult read. I learned a lot about the papacy and pre-papacy life of John Paul the Great. The author does an outstanding job of capturing the spirit and spirituality of this great man. At the same time, this is not a book that paints an unrealistic portrait of history. It is so gratifying to read a book by an author that is obviously extremely well informed about his subject matter and passionate about it as well. I recommend this book to everyone, Catholic or no. I especially recommend this book to anyone interested in the historical truth about secularism/Nazism/Communism.
The Hope of Changing the Culture  Jan 8, 2007
A few years ago, I had the pleasure to meet George Weigel. During a Q & A with his audience, I asked about the oft quoted description in Witness to Hope of John Paul II's Theology of the Body (i.e., a "theological time-bomb set to go off with dramatic consequences...perhaps in the twenty-first century."). Of the hundreds of thousands of words in his book, Weigel playfully wondered what it is about that "munitions" wording that leads to such inquiries. Simply put, George, it is a wonderful line!

From what I observe, Catholics do seem to be waking up to the Theology of the Body. Much, much credit is owed to Christopher West, Jason Evert, and others for making the Theology of the Body more accessible. As John Paul II helped do for Poland in the years before the collapse of Communism, we are seeing some first glimpses of leadership for cultural change.

To a world ravaged by Naziism & then Communism, John Paul II was an incredible Witness to Hope. Weigel's work is magnificent and inspiring.

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