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The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II - The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy [Audiobook] [Audio CD]

George Weigel , Stefan Rudnicki
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

21 Sep 2010
“As March gave way to April in the spring of 2005 and the world kept vigil outside the apostolic palace in Rome, the pontificate of Pope John Paul II, then drawing to a poignant end, was already being described as one of the most consequential in two millennia of Christian history.”
With these words, world-renowned author and NBC Vatican analyst George Weigel begins his long-awaited sequel to the international bestseller Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II. More than ten years in the making, The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II—The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy tells the dramatic story of the Pope’s battle with communism in light of new and recently disclosed information and brings to a close Weigel’s landmark portrait of a man who not only left an indelible mark on the Catholic Church, but also changed the course of world history.
When he was elected pope in the fall of 1978, few people had ever heard of the charismatic Karol Wojty³a. But in a very short time he would ignite a revolution of conscience in his native Poland that would ultimately lead to the collapse of European communism and death of the Soviet Union. What even fewer people knew was that the KGB, the Polish Secret Police, and the East German Stasi had been waging a dangerous, decades-long war against Wojty³a and the Vatican itself. Weigel, with unprecedented access to many Soviet-era documents, chronicles John Paul’s struggle against the dark forces of communism.
Moreover, Weigel recounts the tumultuous last years of John Paul’s life as he dealt with a crippling illness as well as the “new world disorder” and revelations about corruption within the Catholic Church. Weigel’s thought-provoking biography of John Paul II concludes with a probing and passionate assessment of a man who lived his life as a witness to hope in service to the Christian ideals he embraced.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group; Unabridged edition (21 Sep 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307715493
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307715494
  • Product Dimensions: 12.5 x 15 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,288,762 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

George Weigel, Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington s Ethics and Public Policy Center, is a Catholic theologian and one of America s foremost commentators on issues of religion and public life. A Newsweek contributor and Vatican analyst for NBC News, Weigel is the author of fifteen books, including the New York Times bestseller Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II. His work has been translated into more than a dozen languages. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Interesting Book 14 Jun 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a lovely book. The information in it is very detailed and absorbing. Bought for a friend, she is delighted.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Item arrived as expected 21 Dec 2010
By Joseph
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Item arrived as expected is functioning correctly and I have had no problems with it since I have started using it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  24 reviews
52 of 61 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Solid Biography that is Almost as Good as "Witness to Hope" 19 Sep 2010
By Kevin M. Derby - Published on
Writers often disappoint when they return to address topics they have covered in the past. Nobody for example thinks that "The Dangerous Summer" is anywhere nearly as good as the other works Hemingway wrote on Spain. George Weigel's "Witness to Hope" was a wonderful and insightful biography of John Paul II. Now, a decade after that book, Weigel returns to cover the pope's last years and the legacy in "The End and the Beginning."

Drawing on newly opened archives pertaining to the intelligence departments of Communist countries, Weigel is able to offer great insight into their attempts to malign the Church in general and John Paul II in particular. Weigel also offers an unforgettable portrait of the last years of John Paul. Readers will find parts of it moving, especially as Weigel offers a poignant take on the pope's declining health. As he had in "Witness to Hope," Weigel is able to provide insight on John Paul as he understands the turbulent history of Poland in the 20th century which is essential to understanding the late Holy Father.

Weigel offers a very weak take on an issue that he differed from both John Paul II and Benedict XVI on--American intervention in Iraq. Weigel seems content to offer snide comments on the Holy See's opposition to the Iraq War such as "uncoordinated (and sometimes unintelligible)." He also whitewashes parts of it. For example, Weigel does not bring up his fellow Catholic neoconservative Michael Novak who tried to put American intervention in Iraq in Catholic terms--only to be swatted down by the Vatican when he went to Rome. All Weigel can do is offer a lame extended quote from Italian journalist Sandro Magister that John Paul II was not condemning the war constantly or calling it un-Christian. This will not do. With American troops remaining in combat operations in Iraq for more than seven years after the fall of Saddam Hussein, John Paul II and the Holy See seem a bit wiser in retrospect than Beltway Catholics like Weigel and Novak. Weigel's pathetic take on the Vatican and the Iraq War is a last gasp of a strain in his thinking which often puts the GOP over the Holy See. It's regrettable but it does not mar his work as a whole.

Weigel has a habit of pointing the blame at the Vatican bureaucracy whenever he thinks John Paul II failed--whether it is on the American military action in Iraq or the Church's response to numerous sex scandals in 2002. Still, Weigel is not afraid to criticize the pope for appointing bishops who served more as bureaucrats than as pastors.

While not quite as remarkable a book as "Witness to Hope," Weigel produced a solid and memorable volume in "The End and the Beginning." While there are some flaws in the book, Weigel gathered enough new material to justify the new book. Weigel's argument that John Paul II fulfilled the ideas that emerged at Vatican II and helped revitalize the Church at a troubling and crucial time is powerful and well-written. This serves as welcome compliment to "Witness to Hope."
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Page turner! 29 Sep 2010
By Parochus - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Without a doubt, Weigel had to finish what he had started with "Witness to Hope"; he promised the Holy Father that he would. But this book is not merely the continuation of a narrative. Fascinatingly enough, Weigel was able to obtain access to information detailing precise information about the how Communist authorities attempted to infiltrate, influence and corrupt the work of John Paul II in his mission to bring freedom to Poland, and ultimately to much of the Eastern bloc. They key word here is "attempted." More than a biography, I think this book qualifies as a "page turner." Truth is much more exciting than fiction. That's what JPII believed (I love that he used to annotate things "JPII"), and that's what this book delivers.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterful Conclusion to the Story of John Paul II's Life & Work 5 Oct 2010
By Dionysius - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
When Weigel published "Witness to Hope" in 1999, six very productive years still remained in John Paul's pontificate, and now five years after John Paul's death, that story has finally been told in full. But more than that, the opening of secret archives which reveal the extent of the Polish Communist regime's fear and loathing both of the Catholic Church and of Karol Wojtyla allows Weigel to explore previously unknown territory and to explain more fully John Paul's place in history, both as a foe of the poisonous ideology of Communism and as the greatest evangelist of the Christian Gospel in many centuries. And more to point, with a deft combination of the disciplines of history, theology, political philosophy, and biography, Weigel explains that it was precisely Wojtyla's faith in the Lord Jesus and his skill as an evangelist that made him such a deadly foe to Communism. Anyone who wants to understand either the present shape of Catholic Christianity or the end game of the deadly ideological conflicts of the 20th century should read this book deeply.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read, great achievement 5 Oct 2010
By Michael Degnan - Published on
Whether one likes or dislikes his teaching, Karol Wojtyla is one of the central figures of the 20th and early 21st centuries. And for good reason: It will be a long time before any world religious leader rivals his combination of intellect, energy, vision and wisdom learned from his personal experience of war and repression. This biography is really the crowning achievement of George Weigel's career. It's elegantly written, thoroughly researched and a vividly engaging portrait of Wojtyla and his legacy; a worthy conclusion to the story begun in Weigel's "Witness to Hope."

We often learn best from the lives of other people. Weigel has chronicled with uncommon skill one of the pivotal lives of our age.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I strobgly disagree with criticism 10 Jan 2011
By Michal Jastrzebski - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was originally reluctant to get this book since I feared (based on some of the reviews and comments) that this was going to be an inferior version of Weigel's "Witness To Hope". But ultimately I bought it and I am very glad I did, in some aspects I actually prefer this book over the other one - it is perhaps shorter on theology and longer on politics (suites me just fine), the author shares with us wealth of data based on the cold war files and in places it reads like a spy novel. The topic of the Russian Orthodox church, so important to JPII, is treated in depth, which butts another touchy subject - the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic church, this book weaves through this whole explosive cocktail with ease. Also cardinal Casaroli and his Ostpolitik gets in depth treatment, I have to say he was a peculiar fellow. The book doesn't have the volume nor weight of the "Witness" but in some aspects it more than compensates this with very intelligently collected and presented material that had not seen daylight before.
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