Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

John Paul Ii
  • Alternative view 1 of John Paul Ii
  • Alternative view 2 of John Paul Ii

John Paul Ii

3.6 3
by Ray Flynn

See All Formats & Editions

Unlike any other pope, John Paul II has reached out, creating dialogue or creating uproar, but always striving to unite the human community. Drawing on years of personal interaction with the Pope, and on his unique understanding of the intersection of religion and politics, Flynn, with co-authors Robin Moore and Jim Vrabel, shows how John Paul II changed the papacy


Unlike any other pope, John Paul II has reached out, creating dialogue or creating uproar, but always striving to unite the human community. Drawing on years of personal interaction with the Pope, and on his unique understanding of the intersection of religion and politics, Flynn, with co-authors Robin Moore and Jim Vrabel, shows how John Paul II changed the papacy, perhaps forever.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

John Paul II is a closely observed and deeply felt portrait of pope John Paul II as a man of encompassing human compassion, consuming devotion to the Church and its mission, and a faith in God strong enough to support, or renew, the faith of other people. It is a close-up that lets us see the Holy Father's goodness.” —Bernard Cardinal Law, Archbishop of Boston

“A lovingly personal description of the pope as a human being, John Paul II is a personal testament to Flynn's friend and hero, not an ideological or theological tract. I have read almost all of the full-length biographies of the pope. They all have their merits, but none of them captures John Paul II as a person as well as Flynn has done.” —Monsignor George G. Higgins, The Catholic University of America, recipient of the Medal of Freedom

As the leader of the Catholic Church, Pope John Paul II presides over the religious lives of millions of people around the globe. But very few of those people have had the opportunity to know the pope as well as former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican Raymond Flynn. In John Paul II: A Personal Portrait of the Pope and the Man, Flynn offers an intimate and detailed account of both the person and the papacy behind John Paul II.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
As U.S. ambassador to the Vatican from 1993 to 1997, Flynn had the ultimate dream job for a politician who also happened to be a devout Catholic. Now, with the term of the president who appointed him at an end, he has parlayed his four-year assignment in Rome into a memoir. His "Portrait of the Pope," written in collaboration with Moore, author of The French Connection, is largely a warm recollection of the special and intimate moments Flynn enjoyed in the presence of the pope. It begins in 1969 with their first meeting in Boston, long before the former Karol Wojtyla was elected pope, and ends late in Jubilee Year 2000 as Flynn visits Rome one last time. The book's most compelling narration is an account of the battle the pope waged in 1994 over the Clinton administration's efforts to advance its views on abortion at the United Nations Conference for Population and Development in Cairo. Flynn, a pro-life Democrat who agreed with the pope despite his ties to the president, writes candidly about the difficulty he experienced in fulfilling the pope's request to talk with Clinton before the conference. Although he is an unabashed admirer of the pontiff, Flynn also deals in the book with John Paul's increasing frailty and the discouragement the pope felt following the Cairo conference. For readers less inclined to tackle the more substantive papal biographies, Flynn's portrait provides a light alternative. (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Focusing mainly on his and his family's personal contacts with Pope John Paul II while he served as U.S. ambassador to the Vatican (1993-97), Flynn, who also served as mayor of Boston (1984-93), provides insight into the life, motives, and actions of the Pontiff. With coauthor Moore (The French Connection), the author describes his on-the-scene impressions, from the Pope's visit to Boston in 1978 to current speculations as to his successor. Admiration for his subject grew as he became increasingly aware of the pope's global knowledge, keen intellect, and sharp memory for personal detail even as his physical condition weakened. Flynn sees John Paul as a complex personality of uncompromising principles, at ease with the great and the lowly, reaching out personally to all peoples in love. This descriptive profile also highlights John Paul's humor and directness. Recommended as an optional purchase for public and academic libraries. Anna M. Donnelly, St. John's Univ. Lib., Jamaica, NY Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A loving, tender portrait. For readers who don't want to plow through George Weigel's hefty biography of John Paul II (Witness to Hope, 1999), this slender volume by former US Ambassador to the Vatican Flynn (A Public Body, 1998) is a good choice. The author first met the future pope in 1969. At the time, Flynn was a candidate for state representative in Massachusetts, and Karol Wojtyla (as he was then known) was the Archbishop of Krakow. Flynn left their first meeting wishing he could talk to him longer. Eventually, of course, Wojtyla became John Paul II, and he made another trip to Boston, where Flynn renewed the acquaintance. At that point Flynn began to "keep track" of the pope, following his visits to the US and his papacy more generally (one of the most moving passages of the book is Flynn's description of the horror and anxiety he felt when the Pope was shot). While serving as mayor of Boston, Flynn was asked by President Clinton to serve as ambassador to the Vatican. After some hesitation Flynn accepted, in large part because he wanted to get to know John Paul. He did. As ambassador, he had the chance to discuss many important international issues (such as the Vatican's relationship with Israel and the troubles in Ireland) with the pope, and he came to know him as something of a family friend. The author provides an insider's portrait of John Paul, depicting him as both genuine believer and a shrewd politician. He describes the pope's devotion to the Virgin Mary, and his attempt to respond to the Shoah. Above all, he humanizes him, painting a portrait of a sometimes-melancholy pontiff, a man who was concerned when Flynn's son was hospitalized, a friend who seemedsadto see the ambassador leave in 1997. Critics will charge, rightly, that this account smacks of hagiography-but taken for what it is (i.e., a personal memoir of an enigmatic and powerful man), it is deeply satisfying.

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.55(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

John Paul II

A Personal Portrait of the Pope and the Man

By Ray Flynn, Robin Moore, Jim Vrabel

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2001 Ray Flynn
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-312-28328-5



A Polish cardinal talks about dockworkers in a church in Boston

The first time I met Karol Wojtyla was in September 1969. I was running for public office — state representative from South Boston, Massachusetts — for the first time, and I got a call from a friend of mine, Joe Aleks, who was very active in Boston's Polish American community.

"Ray," he said, "they're having a time down at St. Adalbert's in Hyde Park on Sunday. If you want to get the Polish vote, you oughta be there." Before I had a chance to ask any questions, Joe hung up. But I had enough confidence in his political instincts that when Sunday came around I headed out to St. Adalbert's.

A "time" in Boston political, social, and religious circles is any event or reception that is held to honor someone — living or dead. People are judged by whose "times" they attend, just as the person being honored is judged by the attendance at their "time." It was only when I got to St. Adalbert's that evening that I found out that this "time" was being held for the Archbishop of Kraków, the first Polish cardinal ever to visit the United States.

I have to admit, I didn't know anything about the guest of honor. But I did know the person hosting the event, Richard Cardinal Cushing of Boston. Like me, Cushing had been born and raised in "Southie" (South Boston). When I was a kid, I sold him his newspaper from my spot at the corner of Broadway and Dorchester Street in Andrew Square and I remembered that when Archbishop Cushing was made cardinal, everybody in the neighborhood was so proud that one of our own had become a prince of the church. As the years went by everybody in the whole city of Boston came to love the gravel-voiced, craggy-faced archbishop, famous for his wisecracks and for mixing politics and religion.

During the Mass that preceded the reception that evening, Cardinal Cushing gave the guest of honor a warm welcome. He praised Cardinal Wojtyla's strong leadership in Poland during "this difficult hour." He talked about how Wojtyla was close to the "working classes" because he had worked in a chemical factory as a young man. He told those attending the Mass about the cardinal's standing up to the Communist government and getting the first church in the new "worker's city" of Nowa Huta. Turning to look at his Polish colleague, he also described how students and intellectuals flocked to him by the thousands.

I was impressed by Cardinal Cushing's introduction of this Polish cardinal. I was even more impressed by what I heard afterward, at the reception, while I was waiting on the line to meet him. "He's quite a guy," one of the priests from Our Lady of Czestochowa parish in South Boston told me. "They say he was in the Polish underground during the war. Afterward, he was a theology and philosophy teacher before he became a bishop."

I began to pay more attention to this special visitor. He was a handsome, solidly built man with a wide, open face and clear eyes. There was a kind of glow, a shining look that emanated from his face. He seemed comfortable "working the room," as we call it in politics. He stood at the end of the receiving line in the parish hall after some priests, monsignors and bishops and next to Cushing. As people came up, he'd speak to them, sometimes in Polish, sometimes in English.

"How are you? Good to meet you. Good to see you," I heard him say to people ahead of me as I waited to be introduced to him. Some people — politicians, priests, celebrities — aren't really all that comfortable with the "pressing the flesh" side of the business, but this guy seemed to like it.

When it came my turn to meet this Cardinal Wojtyla, Cardinal Cushing introduced me by saying, "Your Eminence, this is one of my neighbors from South Boston, Ray Flynn. Ray was a good athlete in school, a basketball player." The cardinal from Poland nodded his head to show he understood. "An athlete?" he said. "I was a soccer player myself."

Then Cushing, as if thinking of something less trivial and more appropriate to say, added, "Ray's father is a dockworker. He helps us run the Communion breakfasts. Sometimes we get a thousand people at them." The Boston cardinal was referring to the annual Communion breakfast at St. Vincent de Paul Church. Back then, before containerization and automation, thousands of men made their living on the docks of the port of Boston, and many priests worked closely with them, not just in religious issues but on issues of employment, working conditions, and wages. It was very much like the world captured in the movie On the Waterfront, where Karl Malden portrays a priest who tries to help keep the dockworkers' union from being taken over by gangsters.

Cardinal Wojtyla was shaking my hand when Cardinal Cushing made the comment about my father, and the Polish cardinal wouldn't let go. He squeezed it as if he recognized a connection, as if we had something in common. "Dockworkers," he said, in his halting English. "Much work ... very difficult ... not safety on the ships."

I was startled by his words. I knew all about the "not safety," the dangerous conditions. My father had gone to our parish priest for help when he and his fellow workers suffered bites from the spiders and other insects that attached themselves to the animal hides they unloaded from South America. My wife's father, who was also a dockworker, had been injured when a roll of sheet steel had fallen on his leg. After that, he was never able to work again. I had worked on the docks myself, alongside my father — until he convinced me to go to college and find a different line of work. I was surprised that this Polish cardinal would comment on the dockworker's life, but I shouldn't have been. Years later, I would discover that Father Wojtyla's first published article, in the Polish Catholic weekly Tygodnik Powszechny in 1949, concerned the worker-priest movement on the docks of Marseilles in France.

I would have liked to talk more with the guest of honor. But it was time for me to move on. There was a long line behind me. As I left him, I heard one of the priests introduce the next person in line, an older woman from the parish. "... and this is Mrs. ..., Your Eminence. She made the dumplings." As he said this, the priest pointed to the table on the other side of the room overflowing with various dishes of Polish food. The smell of it all — the kielbasa, kapusta, and golumbki — brought back memories of growing up in the Polish section of South Boston around Andrew Square before my family moved to an area called City Point. It obviously brought back memories for our special guest, too.

"The Polish in America have not forgotten how to cook," Cardinal Wojtyla said. "It is all good. Too good!" he said, patting his stomach. "My clothes won't fit me when I get back to Kraków." Everyone laughed at the cardinal's joke, including the cardinal himself. Once again I was surprised. Most of the Polish priests I knew from Our Lady of Czestochowa and other parishes were more reserved and much less outgoing. This guy was more like an Irish priest in the way he interacted with people and joked around, even with people he had never met.

Somebody brought a baby to be blessed, and the cardinal took it willingly and confidently, not like a lot of priests I'd seen, who were nervous when handling babies. Cardinal Wojtyla held up the baby and made faces at it and got the child to laugh. The cardinal didn't seem self-conscious, didn't seem to take himself too seriously. Cardinal Cushing looked on, approvingly, since Cushing himself loved to clown around and wear funny hats. This Polish cardinal seemed to have that same confidence and sense of humor. He also appeared to have a kind of inner peace about him, a serenity. He wasn't rushing anybody. He talked to people as long as they had something to say. He didn't just nod to them while looking beyond them to the next person in line. And when he was done with one person, he accorded the next person the same special treatment, as if he or she were the only one in the room. The cardinal didn't appear to be in a hurry. He seemed glad to be there, in that room, in that part of the world. He seemed comfortable, as though he were part of the family. As a would-be politician who was still not all that comfortable in these kinds of settings, I realized I could learn something from this guy.

"Yes, and where are you from? Where is your family from?" Cardinal Wojtyla asked person after person in the line. "When did they come? Do you write to them? Have you ever been back?" When someone said they were from Kraków, I saw the cardinal's eyes light up. "What's the name again?" He would ask, and "where does your family live?" He didn't just ask one question, he posed follow-up queries. He seemed like an uncle from Poland who hadn't seen the rest of his family, those who had come to America, in many years.

"How old?" he asked someone who brought children up to meet him. Then, bending down to the kids: "Do you like school? Do you study hard?" Then, standing up and talking to the parents again, he said, "Do you teach them Polish? It is good for children to know their language. And to know God loves them."

In South Boston, we frequently had visitors, including priests and bishops, from Ireland. Many people in the neighborhood still had family in the Auld Sod and visited back and forth all the time. I remember thinking, after I had already gone through the receiving line and was standing off to the side, how different it must be for Polish Americans. They couldn't go back and forth that easily. I didn't know what the rules were about writing letters or sending money. Many Polish Americans were founding prosperous, middle-class families in this generation. I didn't know if they could share their prosperity with their families back in Communist Eastern Europe. I made a mental note to find out more about what they were going through.

The reception continued. It was very informal, very lighthearted, as if everyone was taking a cue from the guest of honor. A band began to play polka music. People were laughing. Children were running around underfoot. It was more like a wedding reception than a party for a visiting church dignitary. I took advantage of the opportunity to talk with all my old neighbors and remind them I was running for state representative. But I keep looking over my shoulder at this visiting cardinal. I remember wondering how America must seem to him. When this was all over we'd get in our cars and drive back home, get up tomorrow morning, and go to work in a free country — and take it all for granted. Life must have been so different for him, growing up under the Nazis and then becoming a priest under a Communist regime.

I remember wishing I had more time to talk to this Cardinal Wojtyla, to ask him more questions. I was intrigued by him. There was something special about him. I didn't know he would go on to become pope, of course, but, even so, I wished I could get to know him better. Little did I know I would have the chance.



And a celebration in South Boston

Almost ten years went by. I heard Cardinal Wojtyla's name mentioned once in a while in Boston's Polish community, and saw his picture occasionally in some of the Polish newspapers, but I don't think I ever noticed a mention of him in the "mainstream" press. That is, until October 16, 1978, when the whole world heard his name and he became John Paul II, the first Polish pope.

I heard the news on my car radio as I was driving home from a meeting at City Hall and knew enough to head directly for the Polish area of South Boston. As a state legislator, I had represented the area, but my ties went much farther back than that. I had been born in the neighborhood, on Boston Street, right around corner from our Lady of Czestochowa church and right next to the Polish American Citizens Club. In fact, my christening had been held at the P.A.C. We lived so close to it that my mother handed me through the window of our house to my aunt who had already gone next door to the party.

Upon entering politics, I kept up my connection there. On Saturdays, I'd hold "office hours" at the P.A.C., setting up a table right next to one used by people collecting donations for the Polish relief society. I would also attend the annual installation of the officers of the P.A.C. and the Kosciusko American Legion Post, and the wreath-laying ceremony in front of the statue of General Thaddeus Kosciusko — Polish patriot and hero of the American Revolution — that stands in the Boston Public Garden.

On this particular day, as I drove into the Polish neighborhood, I saw that people already had heard the news. They were pouring out of their houses, wanting to share their joy, wanting to be together, wanting to celebrate. With no public square in which to congregate as they might have done back in Poland, they streamed from all directions toward the church of Our Lady of Czestochowa on Dorchester Avenue. At the statue of Our Lady in front of the church, they placed piles of red and white flowers, the colors of Poland. They also piled flowers in front of the portrait of the Black Madonna inside.

I entered the church, which was rapidly filling up. People knelt in prayer. Old women, kerchiefs on their heads, said the rosary as tears of joy lined their faces. There were plenty of men in the church, too. Unlike some other groups, the Polish men didn't leave God for the women only. Looking around the church, I recognized a number of other local politicians, many who I'd never seen in this part of town before. Today, though, everybody wanted to be Polish.

The priests of the parish quickly organized and celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving. In his homily, the pastor reminded us of the new pope's visit to Boston when he was a cardinal. I thought back to the brief time I'd spent with him, and the deep impression he'd made on me. Evidently, I realized, I wasn't the only one he impressed. The pastor also talked about the history of Poland, and how, like that of the Catholic Church, it was rooted in suffering and pain. Sometimes, though, he said, there were events like today when God gives us a cause for extraordinary joy and hope. When it came time to sing, people joined in with so much gusto that they almost took the roof off the church.

After Mass, people poured outside and stood milling around on the sidewalk. It seemed as if no one wanted to go home, no one wanted the evening to end. To accommodate the people's need to celebrate together, the priests opened up a function room in St. Mary's School, right around the corner on Boston Street. Coffee and cookies were brought in and the celebration continued.

Today, my daughter Maureen teaches at St. Mary's, and she says some of the nuns and people who work at the school still talk about that day, the way Red Sox fans talk about the team winning the 1967 pennant. In both cases, it was the fulfillment of what seemed like an impossible dream.

Paul Wolon, a Boston police officer, and his wife Magdalene, lived in the first floor of a three-decker right across the street from the church, and they invited a bunch of us back to their place for an impromptu house party. Magdalene opened up a big Krakus Polish ham, and started making sandwiches for everyone. Paul brought out the Polish beer. I remember that Paul's mother, who lived there too, had the biggest collection of porcelain figures — Hummels, I think they're called — that I ever saw. That night, sitting in the living room, surrounded by her Hummels, and by a bunch of her women friends who, like her, were immigrants to this country, she prayed the rosary while Polish music played on the record player.

Just when it seemed that the house party was winding down, Joe Szep, president of the Polish American Citizens Club, called to say that the band had just started playing and that everyone was invited to come over to the P.A.C. We all took him up on his offer, including Mrs. Wolon and her cronies, and beer flowed and polka music played long into the night.

Years later, I had the opportunity to tell John Paul II about the celebration that took place in South Boston when he was named pope. A playful smile crossed his face, and the Holy Father said to me: "You told me what time the party started — but not when it came to an end."


Excerpted from John Paul II by Ray Flynn, Robin Moore, Jim Vrabel. Copyright © 2001 Ray Flynn. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Ray Flynn served as U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican from 1993 to 1997 and as the Mayor of Boston from 1984 to 1993. He hosts a daily, nationally syndicated political television talk show and lives in Boston.

Robin Moore is the best selling author of The French Connection and The Green Beret. He lives in Concord, Massachusetts.

Jim Vrabel is a former newspaper reporter and speechwriter. He lives in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

John Paul II 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
as an evangelical christian i found much offense in this book. gone is the critque we need of the catholic church and its ways. gone is the center of christ. gone is the center of faith. gone is a repudiation of the liberal good works doctrine of the catholic church. instead, all we find is an adoration of the pope by a liberal Clinton Administration official. Ray Flynn is a liberal lefty - no doubt about that. he says he's pro 'social justice' (read: socialism). he shows his tilt in this book. as a conservative protestant, i already had much in disagreement with this church. all protestants do. this book mended nothing. the catholic church is leading its members astray with its godless theology of good works. this book only magnifies this.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I find a great deal in common with the fine writer. Like him, I am a Catholic - and a darn proud one at that. Like him, I am a Democrat - and a terribly proud one at that. And, lastly, like him, I find myself drawn to Catholic social teaching. Therefore, I liked a great deal of what the book had to state. The writer succeeded in making a fine portrait of our Pope. However, the book - despite its fine stories and intention - was missing something - honesty. Flynn seemed to want to pander not to progressive Catholics but to right wing Catholics in his bashing of President Clinton and adoration of the Pope. Most notable was the author's telling of the Cairo Conference. If the Pope is so concerned about social justice, then why did he act as loudly as he did in this conference about abortion when President Clinton tried to pass universal health care? Why does Flynn not mention that? There is a stunning gap here. However, the book is a fine read, despite its showing of some of the hypocrisies of the Catholic establishment in the Vatican. And, may I add, the author did a fine job. I wish him well these days - I have followed his career for some time. I hope this is not the last we hear of Raymond Flynn.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ambassador Flynn presents an incredible view of the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II. Their relationship started not with President Clinton tapping Flynn as Ambassador to the Holy See, but rather 30 years before, in Boston with Cardinal Cushin and Cardinal Wojtya. It is an inspring volume of the relationship between the Vicar of Christ and a representitive of the United States government. But even more inspiring, that of a Catholic family man and a true priest of God. Anyone who wants a view of the Pope that has never really been explored would be foolish to ignore this book. It would also serve as a beautiful compliment to George Weigal's Witness to Hope!