Posted February 11, 2004
Pope John Paul II: A Biography
Author: Meg Greene
Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut, pp. 172
An excerpt from the Jacket:
The life of Karol Wojtyla would be remarkable even if he never became the Millennium Pope, revered by millions worldwide. From a Polish schoolboy who loved outdoor pursuits and quietly coped with family tragedy, he matured into a talented linguist, actor, and author, and experienced Nazi occupation, the Iron Curtain, and Solidarity’s overthrow of Communism. His rise through the ranks of the Catholic Church was accelerated upon recognition of his gifted mind, combined with his behind-the-scenes activism and rapport with parishioners, especially youths.
The reign of John Paul II has transcended the Vatican and the Catholic sphere, as he has worked to heal the rift between Catholics and Jews, and Catholics and the Eastern Orthodoxy. He has also served as an ambassador to the world, traveling relentlessly to reach out to the masses, even as he battles Parkinson’s disease and old age. This balanced narrative coveys the poignancy of his family ties and his admirable character and intellect, yet it also acknowledges criticism of conservative papal positions. A bibliography of print and electronic resources and a timeline complete the volume.
An excerpt from the book:
Entering the second decade of his papacy, Pope John Paul II began showing signs of increasing frustration. The 1980s had been characterized by his preoccupation with the political changes in Poland and Eastern Europe. During the 1980s, the pope had not softened his message, using every opportunity to speak about the Church’s teachings and to impose discipline on the faithful. But the pope was also showing his feelings; on occasion audiences saw an angry pope, a rare sight just a few years earlier. There was still the problem of growing dissent within the Church, making it harder for the pope to achieve his goal of a united Roman Catholic Church. It was also becoming clear that Catholics, particularly those in the West, were not heeding the pope’s advice and messages.
In the 1990s the pope took an even harder stance on hot button issues such as birth control, abortion, and the role of women in the Church, while continuing to play an important role in world events and weigh in on issues and controversies around the world. Already in June of 1990, the Vatican ordered Catholic theologians to stop quarreling with the Church publicly; if they had problems with certain Catholic doctrines, they were not, under any circumstances, to air their disagreements in public. Disobeying this order would earn them the same fate as others who had defied the pope and Church teachings.
In the midst of this ongoing internal squabble, there were several other concerns facing the pope. The Church was continuing to lose ground among its followers and many clergy feared that the institution was losing its moral, political, and social relevance. Adding to the problem was the refusal of some world leaders to listen to the pope. When the pope pleaded with U.S. President George Bush to negotiate a last-minute retreat from Kuwait in 1990, the president listened, but then ignored the pope, whom he viewed as nothing more than a second-rate and unreliable ally. The pope received another bitter jolt when the government of Israel refused to allow the Vatican to participate in a conference in Madrid, which would hopefully lead to future talks with the Palestinians. And in the most bitter irony of all, with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the pope and the Church suffered a serious erosion of power and influence in Russia. As depressing as that seemed, there was something even more troubling awaiting the pope on his next trip to Poland.
Table of Contents:
Chapter 1 A son of Poland
Chapter 2 A young man of passion
Chapter 3 A world turned upside down
Chapter 4 The secret seminarian
Chapter 5 An up-and-coming leader
Chapter 6 The traveling priest
Chapter 7 The Cardinal
Chapter 8 The year of three popes
Chapter 9 Behold, the Slavic Pope is coming
Chapter 10 Man of the year — man of the century