"As March gave way to April in the spring of 2005 and the world kept vigil outside the apostolic palace in Rome, the pontificate of Pope John Paul II, then drawing to a poignant end, was already being described as one of the most consequential in two millennia of Christian history."
With these words, world-renowned author and NBC Vatican analyst George Weigel begins his long-awaited sequel to the international best seller Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II. More than 10 years in the making, The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II—The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy tells the dramatic story of the Pope’s battle with communism in light of new and recently disclosed information and brings to a close Weigel’s landmark portrait of a man who not only left an indelible mark on the Catholic Church, but also changed the course of world history.
When he was elected pope in the fall of 1978, few people had ever heard of the charismatic Karol Wojty³a. But in a very short time he would ignite a revolution of conscience in his native Poland that would ultimately lead to the collapse of European communism and death of the Soviet Union. What even fewer people knew was that the KGB, the Polish Secret Police, and the East German Stasi had been waging a dangerous, decades-long war against Wojty³a and the Vatican itself. Weigel, with unprecedented access to many Soviet-era documents, chronicles John Paul’s struggle against the dark forces of communism.
Moreover, Weigel recounts the tumultuous last years of John Paul’s life as he dealt with a crippling illness as well as the “new world disorder” and revelations about corruption within the Catholic Church. Weigel’s thought-provoking biography of John Paul II concludes with a probing and passionate assessment of a man who lived his life as a witness to hope in service to the Christian ideals he embraced.
“The author of the landmark Witness to Hope has now finished the story he began so brilliantly. In his new book, George Weigel - biographer and theologian - details John Paul II's battle against totalitarianism and chronicles the Holy Father's humble acceptance of suffering at the end of earthly life. As ever, Weigel writes with confidence, clarity, and insight.” (Jon Meacham, Editor, Newsweek and Pulitzer Prize Winning Author of American Lion)
“We’ve been awaiting it for a decade – since his acclaimed Witness to Hope – and George Weigel’s The End and the Beginning is well-worth the wait! It is impossible to comprehend fully the twentieth century without considering John Paul II, and it is difficult to appreciate him without plunging into this book, an enjoyable task indeed.” (Most Reverend Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York)
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Insight into Pope John II the Great
I thought I was somewhat informed on the pontificate of Pope John Paul II but George Weigel showed me in this excellent book how little I knew about Pope John Paul II the Great.The first part of the book tells an amazing story of the Church in Poland under the Nazis and then the Communist. I am embarrassed that I have ever placed my faith secondary to anything after hearing these stories of people willing—during my lifetime—to endure torture and even death rather than reject their faith in Christ. Is was struck at how the KGB had a whole group focused on bringing down Catholicism. I never considered that Vatican II or any Vatican office or European chancery would have Communist spies. Yes, this includes men who wore the Roman collar. It seems clear that God raised up Karol Wojtyla in very difficult situations to prepare him to sit in Peter’s chair for 26 years.In the second part of the book, Weigel takes us inside the Vatican between 1979 and 2005 to learn about the role Pope John Paul II played in the event of those years and some insight into what is required of the pope. While I was aware of the Great Jubilee celebrations, after reading this, I wish I could relive it following the agenda Pope John Paul II created for us.The last part is a reflection of the legacy of Pope John Paul II. Weigel draws on his insight to look at pontificate as we set into the deeper water where Pope John Paul II directed this ship. Weigel’s insight of why Pope John Paul II did or did not address issues helps to understand the direction of Pope Benedict XVI and perhaps even some insight into why he abdicated. There is section where Weigel lists the Bishops Pope John Paul II appointed different from the recommendations of the national bishop conferences. The lists includes the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio.I take away a greater respect for Pope John Paul II and a desire to understand his teachings.Before starting the second part of the book, be sure you know the meaning of the word modernity as Weigel uses it often.
- Gil Michelini
The end and the beginning in review