The hundredth anniversary of the birth of Pope St. John Paul II, one of the most influential popes in Church history, will be on Monday, May 18. In these times of COVID-19 lockdown measures, when we have more opportunities to read books and watch movies than usual, there is no better time to delve into the life, thought, and legacy of Karol Wojtyła. Here, we present a list of ten exceptional works about Pope St. John Paul II: nine remarkable books and one inspiring film.
Witness to Hope: An Intimate Portrait
Witness to Hope (Harper Perennial, 2001); The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II – The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years (Image, 2010); The Legacy; Lessons in Hope: My Unexpected Life with St. John Paul II (Basic Books, 2017) by George Weigel
If you’ve ever delved into the history of Pope John Paul II, chances are you’ve come across George Weigel’s books. Witness to Hope, the definitive biography of the pontiff, is highly regarded and provides a comprehensive account of his life, highlighting his pilgrimages to different nations and their significant social, political, and religious impact. Weigel, who spent years interviewing the pope and those who knew him, presents invaluable insights and captivating anecdotes in this engrossing work.
Cardinal Jaime Sin, the late archbishop of Manila and a key figure in the peaceful revolution against the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, reveals in this book how John Paul II and the Solidarity movement inspired his fight for freedom. Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the postulator of the cause for canonization of St. Oscar Romero, shares his perspective on the Salvadoran martyr and the Church’s role.
Weigel’s The End and the Beginning is an exceptional account of the last five years of John Paul II’s life, including his pivotal role in the collapse of communism. Lessons in Hope is Weigel’s engaging memoir of writing Witness to Hope and offers a fascinating glimpse into his encounters with notable figures in Catholic history. This book is both inspiring and insightful, making it a must-read for aspiring young writers.
City of Saints: A Historic Pilgrimage to Krakow
City of Saints: A Pilgrimage to John Paul II’s Krakow (Image, 2015) by George Weigel, Carrie Gress, Stephen Weigel
Krakow, the city where Karol Wojtyła lived for over forty years before becoming pope, holds great significance in his life. City of Saints serves as an excellent historical guide to Krakow, offering an introduction to the medieval history and the city’s struggles under Nazi Germany and communist rule. The authors also explore places closely associated with Wojtyła, such as Nowa Huta and the quarry where he labored under German occupation.
This well-crafted book introduces readers to the Krakow saints who played a role in shaping Wojtyła’s spirituality and worldview. A rich blend of history and personal anecdotes, City of Saints is an invaluable companion for anyone planning a visit to John Paul II’s Krakow.
John Paul II: The Biography
John Paul II: The Biography (Cinisello Balsamo, 2011) by Andrea Riccardi
Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Community of Sant’Egidio, presents an extraordinary biography of John Paul II. Although originally written in Italian and translated into several European languages, an English translation is yet to be available. Riccardi offers precise and insightful analyses of John Paul II’s political impact and lesser-known aspects of his papacy.
The book explores his clashes with the Bush administration over the invasion of Iraq, his attempts at mediation in the Arab-Israeli conflict, and other significant events. Riccardi deconstructs the media portrayal of John Paul II as a mere political strategist and demonstrates the depth of his convictions. This profound biography allows readers to comprehend the political, social, and religious significance of John Paul II’s teachings, actions, and pilgrimages.
Why He Is a Saint: Unveiling John Paul II
Why He Is a Saint: The Life and Faith of Pope John Paul II and the Case for Canonization (Rizzoli, 2010) by Sławomir Oder
Father Sławomir Oder, the priest who served as the postulator for John Paul II’s cause for canonization, provides intimate insights into the life of the beloved pope. Drawing on extensive research and personal interviews, Father Oder sheds light on various aspects of John Paul II’s life, including his significant encounters and the impact he had on individuals and nations.
This revealing book shares remarkable anecdotes, such as John Paul II’s private meeting with Augusto Pinochet, which led the Chilean dictator to consider the importance of democracy. Why He Is a Saint gives readers a deeper understanding of John Paul II’s enduring legacy and the reasons behind his canonization.
The Hidden Pope: A Story of Friendship and Interfaith Dialogue
The Hidden Pope: The Untold Story of a Lifelong Friendship That Changed the Relationship Between Catholics and Jews (Rodale Books, 1998) by Darcy O’Brien
Relations between Jews and Christians have often been strained throughout history, overshadowed by persecution and misunderstandings. However, Pope St. John Paul II sought to bridge this divide and emphasized the importance of dialogue and mutual respect. The Hidden Pope recounts the enduring friendship between Karol Wojtyła and Jerzy Kluger, two childhood friends from Poland.
Darcy O’Brien elegantly describes their deep bond and how it developed across time, from their shared experiences in Wadowice to their separate journeys during World War II. Kluger, as an influential advisor, played a crucial role in John Paul II’s efforts to improve relations with the Jewish community. This heartwarming tale explores the transformative power of friendship and interfaith dialogue, inspiring readers to build bridges across faiths.
The Thought of the Man Who Became Pope John Paul II: A Philosophical Exploration
The Thought of the Man Who Became Pope John Paul II (Eerdmans, 1997) by Rocco Buttiglione
Karol Wojtyła’s philosophical writings, rooted in both Thomism and twentieth-century phenomenology, can be challenging to comprehend. However, Rocco Buttiglione, a prominent Italian philosopher and personal friend of John Paul II, has provided an enlightening guide to understand the future pope’s profound thinking.
The Thought of the Man Who Became Pope John Paul II delves into Wojtyła’s key works, such as Love and Responsibility, The Acting Person, and his contributions to the Second Vatican Council. Buttiglione offers a comprehensive overview of Wojtyła’s philosophical foundation, his formation as a philosopher, and the historical context that shaped his intellectual journey. This book serves as an excellent introduction to the philosophical insights of John Paul II.
Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love: Unveiling Love and Responsibility
Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love: Practical Insights from John Paul II’s “Love and Responsibility” (Servant, 2015) by Edward Sri
John Paul II’s book Love and Responsibility offers profound insights into ethical relationships between men and women. Although considered a relatively accessible read by Wojtyła standards, it still presents challenges for non-philosophers. Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love by Edward Sri serves as an invaluable tool for understanding and applying Wojtyła’s teachings to everyday life.
Sri skillfully unpacks the philosophical concepts in Love and Responsibility, offering practical advice on building successful courtships, marriages, and friendships based on genuine respect for others. This book includes chapters addressing the specific concerns of single individuals and engaged couples. With discussion questions at the end of each chapter, Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love is an essential resource for pastors involved in marriage preparation, counseling, or young adult ministry.
Nine Days That Changed the World: A Documentary Journey
Nine Days That Changed the World (Citizens United Productions, 2010)
No account of Pope St. John Paul II’s life would be complete without acknowledging the impact of his 1979 pilgrimage to Poland. This ninety-minute documentary encapsulates the essence of those nine remarkable days and their subsequent influence on the rise of Solidarity, a movement that challenged Soviet hegemony in Eastern Europe. The film encompasses interviews with John Paul II’s associates, Solidarity activists, and renowned commentators, including George Weigel and Marcello Pera. The emotional and inspiring narrative touches the hearts of viewers across generations, cultures, and faiths.
As we celebrate the hundredth anniversary of Pope St. John Paul II’s birth, let us embrace this opportunity to delve into his life and thought. These exceptional works provide invaluable insights into the profound impact of this extraordinary pontiff. Join us on this enriching journey, exploring the legacy of Pope St. John Paul II and his enduring influence on the world.
To explore more about Pope St. John Paul II’s life and legacy, visit Ratingperson.