Summary and book reviews of Witness To Hope by George Weigel

Witness To Hope

The Biography of Pope John Paul II

by George Weigel

Witness To Hope
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  • First Published:
    Oct 1999, 992 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2001, 1008 pages

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Book Summary

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.

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 Weigel also includes previously unpublished papal correspondence with Leonid Brezhnev, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Deng Xiaoping, and draws on hitherto unavailable autobiographical reminiscences by the Pope.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.

The Marne, Tannenberg, and Verdun; the Battle of Britain and Midway; Stalingrad and D-Day's Omaha Beach - according to the conventional wisdom, these were the decisive battles of the twentieth century. Only Poles and professional historians remember the August 1920 Battle of the Vistula, or, as pious Poles insist, the "Miracle on the Vistula." Yet much turned on this, including the destiny of a three-month-old infant named Karol Jozef Wojtyla, born in the small provincial city of Wadowice the previous May 18.

In the summer of 1920, Polish history seemed set to repeat itself in a particularly ugly way. The Second Polish Republic, the first independent Polish state since 1795, was about to be strangled in its cradle as the Red Cavalry of General Semen Budennyi drove westward out of Ukraine, sweeping all before it. For Poles, it brought back memories of other invasions from the steppes and other preludes to national disaster. For Lenin, who wanted to "probe Europe with the bayonet...

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Reviews

Media Reviews

Author Blurb Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I., Archbishop of Chicago
A singularly important and comprehensive book [that] will encourage the kind of dialogue and debate among friends that characterizes the life of Pope John Paul II....The definitive work.

Author Blurb John Cardinal O'Connor, Archbishop of New York
An extraordinary biography of an extraordinary man....With polished prose and impeccable scholarship, Weigel introduces us to the man who, refined in the crucible of the darkest days of the twentieth century and sustained by unshakable faith, offers the world a message of hope and peace for the twenty-first century. I highly recommend Witness to Hope to any who would know the person and personality of Pope John Paul II.

Author Blurb Oscar Hijuelos, author of The Mambo Kings Play Songs Of Love and Mr. Ives' Christmas
Whether you are religious or not, you will be moved by this book, a vivid portrait of a deeply feeling and intellectual Church leader who is also a worldly mystic....One of the best and most intriguing biographies I have ever read.

Author Blurb Mary Ann Glendon, Harvard Law School
At last, a biography worthy of the man of the century. George Weigel's graceful writing, meticulous research, political sophistication, and theological understanding make this a matchless portrait -- not only of John Paul II, but of the world and the Catholic Church entering the third millennium.

Author Blurb Gertrude Himmelfarb, Professor Emeritus, CUNY; author of Victorian Minds
A fascinating biography of an extraordinary figure.

Author Blurb William J. Bennett, author of The Book Of Virtues
A spectacular biography about one of the twentieth century's monumental figures....Learned, fast-paced, deeply insightful, and genuinely inspirational. An extraordinary accomplishment.

Author Blurb Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor to President Carter
Witness to Hope is, to put it succinctly, the best book on the remarkable life of a truly historic figure.

Reader Reviews

Thinh Nguyen

This is simply the best book that I have ever read. Not only did it moved me, it transformed me!



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