Santo Subito?

'The End and the Beginning'

Pope John Paul II—The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy
George Weigel
Doubleday, $32.50, 608 pp.

This volume carries on George Weigel’s role as papal biographer (see Witness to Hope), celebrating Pope John Paul II as a heroic figure on multiple fronts. If Weigel had lived in nineteenth-century France, he clearly would have been termed an ultramontane—one who looked beyond the Alps to Rome. Instead, Weigel looks from Washington to Rome.

Weigel begins with a brief review and synopsis of Karol Wojtyła’s pre-papal life and the first two decades of his pontificate, a subject covered in encyclopedic detail in Witness. He then focuses on John Paul’s role as the “Millennial Pope,” the shrewd and courageous “nemesis” of communism. According to Weigel, eight months after his election, JPII “ignited a revolution of conscience in his native Poland—a moral challenge to the Cold War status quo that helped set in motion the international drama that would culminate in the collapse of European communism.” In that context, the reader is treated to numerous tidbits of reporting and speculation concerning the pope, collected by the Soviet KGB, Polish SB, and East German Stasi. This material has been culled from an archive of classified documents once available only to senior Communist Party and secret police officials, but made accessible in the five years after the pope’s death. The identity and code names of various emissaries and moles who gathered information are provided. There is a long note regarding the possible role of the KGB and the Stasi in the...

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About the Author

Bernard P. Prusak teaches theology at Villanova University.