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Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II
Tad Szulc
New York: Scribner, 1995
BX1378.5 .S98 1995

Is Pope John Paul II leading the Roman Catholic Church toward triumphal survival in the third millenium 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 statesmen 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.

In this definitive and intimate biography of John Paul II - based on unprecedented access to the Pope himself, his friends, colleagues, and collaborators, and to secret documents from many sources - veteran New York Times correspondent and award-winning author Tad Szulc offers a new and insightful portrait of the life of the two hundred sixty-fourth pontiff, from his birth to the present, his mysticism and his pragmatism.

Szulc discloses here for the first time significant new material, including: The first 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 Communist Party's Politburo on plans for a campaign to neutralize the Polish pope; The strange role of the CIA at the time of the assassination attempt against John Paul II.

Drawing on primary sources and scores of interviews at the Vatican and in Poland, the United States, and half a dozen other countries, Szulc's study of the life of John Paul II, emphasizing his Polishness as a defining dimension of his political personality, is vital reading not only for Roman Catholics, but for anyone interested in one of the most important figures of our time.

Quoted from dust jacket.