George Weigel, a U.S. biographer of Pope John Paul II, is pictured in Rome Jan. 12. Weigel's latest book, "The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II - The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy," is a sequel to his 1999 biography of the late pope. It adds new details about the church's struggle against communism and covers the last years of the pontiff's life. CNS photo/Paul Haring

Christian disciples united by legacy of John Paul II

  • March 19, 2015

I had the pleasure this past week of hosting George Weigel, one of the Church’s leading public intellectuals, in Toronto and Kingston. I had long wanted to host Weigel, a mentor and friend and colleague for more than 20 years, and thought that 2015, the 10th anniversary of the death of St. John Paul II, would be the perfect year to do it.

Weigel’s more than 20 books range from studies of St. Augustine’s theory of justice and peace to a liturgical and devotional guide to the Roman station churches of Lent, but his most important work is his two-volume biography of John Paul, published in 1999, Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II, and in 2010, The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II — the Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy.

Weigel interpreted the epic 26-year papacy of John Paul for millions of readers by writing about the most consequential religious figure of our time “from the inside.” When previous biographies failed to capture the essence of the person and the pontificate, John Paul would observe that it was because biographers would try to understand him “from the outside.”

With remarkable access to John Paul, his friends and colleagues, Weigel produced, with the complete freedom to write whatever he wished without any requirement for papal approval, an authoritative book that became for many spiritual reading. (On a visit to the venerable Benedictine monastery at Solesmes, I heard it read in the refectory to the monks in French.)

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