Pope John Paul II: The Biography

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Is Pope John Paul II leading the Roman Catholic Church toward triumphal survival in the third millennium of the Christian era or is he presiding over one of its deepest crises in history? Is the world's oldest organized religious institution at a dramatic crossroads? These are the questions facing Roman Catholicism in this final phase of the long and extraordinary pontificate of the Polish pope, the spiritual head of nearly one billion believers and a world statesman of immense stature and influence, perhaps the ...
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1995 Hard cover 1st printing New in new dust jacket. bright shiny, brand new Sewn binding. Paper over boards. 542 p. Audience: General/trade.

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Overview

Is Pope John Paul II leading the Roman Catholic Church toward triumphal survival in the third millennium of the Christian era or is he presiding over one of its deepest crises in history? Is the world's oldest organized religious institution at a dramatic crossroads? These are the questions facing Roman Catholicism in this final phase of the long and extraordinary pontificate of the Polish pope, the spiritual head of nearly one billion believers and a world statesman of immense stature and influence, perhaps the greatest and most charismatic figure the Church has produced in the twentieth century. Yet, at the age of seventy-five and in the seventeenth year of his papacy, John Paul II remains a mystery, theologically, politically, and personally. A man of impressive intellectual - and literary - achievements, Karol Wojtyla of Krakow presents a daunting contradiction between his inexorable conservative stand on contraception, divorce, and an all-male, celibate priesthood, and his powerful advocacy of human rights everywhere and social justice in the Third World and among the poor of the affluent West. Szulc discloses here for the first time significant new material, including the inside story of the personal negotiations involving John Paul II, President Gorbachev of the Soviet Union, and General Jaruzelski of Poland that led to Poland's and Eastern Europe's transition from communism to democracy; the drama of John Paul II's secret diplomacy resulting in the establishment of relations between the Holy See and Israel; the never-before-told story of how the Polish communist regime helped to "make" Wojtyla an archbishop, the key step on his road to the papacy; reports by the Polish Secret Police assessing Bishop Wojtyla; the revelation of the role of Cardinal Wojtyla as the principal drafter of Pope Paul VI's encyclical Humanae vitae on contraception; the detailed, hour-by-hour, inside story of Karol Wojtyla's election as pope; secret documents of the Soviet Communi

The acclaimed, definitive biography of one of the most influential figures of our time is now in paperback! This intimate portrait of the Pope sheds light on how his history--and very Polishness--has shaped both his pragmatism and mysticism. Szulc also reveals many aspects of his life that have never before come to light.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
New York Times reporter Szulc has traveled extensively with Karol Wojtyla, Pope John Paul II, and was granted an interview with him in 1994. Not an authorized biography, this detached yet sympathetic life story provides an extraordinarily candid portrait of the Polish pontiff and a timely inside look at the Church's internal crisis. While conceding that John Paul II's conservative positions on birth control, abortion, priestly celibacy, the exclusion of women from the priesthood, divorce and homosexuality have alienated vast numbers of the faithful, Szulc observes that he has made the Vatican an active participant and a major player in world affairs. And he commends the pope as a champion of religious freedom, an apostle of social justice (especially in the Third World), a friend to the Jewish people and a cogent critic of capitalist consumerism and greed. . A man of notable kindness, steely stamina and uncompromising consistency in his fundamental views, Wojtyla, born in 1920, is a prolific poet and playwright fluent in six languages. He's a contemplative mystic molded by personal tragedies-his mother died when he was eight, and he lost the rest of his family, his father and brother, before age 22. A penniless rock-quarry worker during the German wartime occupation of Poland, he acted in a Polish underground theater group. Ordained in 1946, Father Wojtyla became an influential professor of ethics and a moral philosopher, pursuing a ``strategy of confrontation and compromise'' with the communist authorities, whose wrath he incurred for his outspoken stance on behalf of the rights of the Church and of his fellow Poles. Brimming with revelations, this biography shows that the Polish communist regime committed a ``fatal error'' by backing his elevation to archbishop in 1963. Szulc also unveils a triangular network of secret diplomacy among John Paul II, Mikhail Gorbachev and Polish dictator Wojciech Jaruzelski during the 1980s, which he credits with expediting the demise of Communist Party rule in Poland. Both admirers and critics of John Paul II will find much new material here in support of their views. 180,000 first printing.(Apr.)
Library Journal
Significant details from a prize-winning New York Times reporter.
Ilene Cooper
With the release of Pope John Paul II's latest encyclical on the value of life, the pontiff once again steps into the spotlight, making this well-researched biography especially timely. Szulc, a former "New York Times" journalist and the author of an acclaimed biography of Castro, "Fidel: A Critical Portrait" (1986), had access to both the pope and his papers, and the favored treatment shows. The book will be particularly newsworthy because it sheds light on John Paul's relationship with Communist regimes, but it also has interesting details on the Vatican intrigue that led to his elevation as pope in the first place and on his efforts to develop closer ties with Israel in particular and with Judaism in general. This is by no means the critical attack the pope's opponents might wish for, but it also is not a hagiographic slice of papal pap. Lots of publicity--including serialization in "Newsweek"equals lots of interest, which translates to high demand in public libraries. [Note: Due to its serialization, this book was not made available to reviewers in galley form.]
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684804163
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication date: 7/4/1995
  • Pages: 542
  • Product dimensions: 6.45 (w) x 9.58 (h) x 1.51 (d)

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