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The Pope in Winter: The Dark Face of John Paul's Papacy [Hardcover]

John Cornwell
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

11 Nov 2004
The first biography to focus on Pope John Paul II's controversial reactions to recent crises in the Church and the global arena. In a bold and highly original work, The Pope in Winter brings John Paul's complex character into sharp focus. A veteran observer of the Vatican, Cornwell combines eyewitness reporting with impeccable sources. Respectful of John Paul's prodigious spirit and battles for human rights, Cornwell raises questions about a system that grants lifetime power to an individual vulnerable to age and illness. The result is a striking portrait of John Paul in the winter of his life and an incisive assessment of his legacy.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Viking (11 Nov 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670915726
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670915729
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.3 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 199,604 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

John Cornwell is the author of two best-selling books on the papacy: A Thief in the Night: the Mysterious Death of John Paul I; and Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII. His Breaking Faith, a study of the Catholic Church at the millennium, was widely acclaimed. For fifteen years he has reported the Vatican for the Sunday Times, and for Vanity Fair in New York, and is a regular writer in the Catholic international weekly, The Tablet. He lives in London, Cambridge and Northamptonshire.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Careful but unflinching portrait 25 Sep 2007
Format:Paperback
This is an elegant, sharply intelligent account of Karol Wojtyla's pontificate, a refreshing antidote to the more official and fulsome biographies of him. The author is a respected catholic thinker and academic. He hasn't set out to shock, but to flesh out the complex personality of John Paul II and to relate him to his time- a period of great political change in central Europe and of knife-edged diplomacy and still unresolved conflict in the middle East. Cornwell has his own un-named sources for some previously unknown anecdotage, some of it startling, some amusing. Ultra-conservative catholics may find these Vatican tales a touch scandalous, but they humanise this figure of power and authority, and indeed they seem to ring true when one already knows a bit about the character of Wojtyla before he became Pope. It may be an uncompromising, "warts and all" portrait, and Cornwell is unequivocal about what he sees as the Pope's failings in, for instance, religious pluralism, but he is respectful of his achievements. He details the Pontiff's early visits to his native Poland at the days when the Solidarity movement faced up to the communist-controlled regime. At that time Wojtyla whole-heartedly encouraged the spirit of freedom in his compatriots without overtly urging a people's revolt, and though he could not claim to be the prime mover of the fall of communism, his moral leadership could not be ignored, and his oratory and diplomatic skills, as Cornwell puts it, were "perfect" for the occasion. The book is also realistic about those occasions on which John Paul II and the Holy See appeared to stumble over, or not to react swiftly enough to, controversies that engulfed the church in the late 20th century, such as the child abuse scandal in the USA involving Catholic priests. Read more ›
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another Cornwell Triumph 18 Oct 2007
Format:Paperback
A splendid record of this good man's ups and downs. I've read many books written about John Paul II and most of them are repetitious. This one is refreshingly new. I've read all of Cornwell's books and I have yet to be disappointed.

If you like pope-books, for an eye-opener, get your fingers on Lucien Gregoire's The Vatican Murders:: The Life and Death of John Paul I a newly released biog of the Polish Pope's predecessor, the 33-day Pope. We've heard too much of his mysterious death, finally, the full and only Vatican uncensored record of the life of John Paul I: his childhood, seminary days, priesthood, bishop, cardinal, pope... dead pope - biography plus true crime: Gregoire proves the conspiracy that planned the great Vatican bank scandal was the same conspiracy that plotted the murder of John Paul I.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Pope In Winter 20 Jan 2008
By Spider Monkey HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
'The Pope In Winter' seemed to be a fairly balanced look at the life and policy of Pope John Paul. I guess any religious biography is going to be controversial and that staunch catholics will be upset at some of the ideas explored here. The one, and main, thing in this books defence is that the author is a catholic and has a great deal of access and experience of Vatican events. At times some of the chapters rambled and the style wasn't too easy to plow through (hence the 3 stars) but generally it was a good read and put across it's ideas clearly. Some of the more esoteric and philosophical religious ideas were a bit of a chore, but relevant to the overall themes of the book. This book has some excellent colour plate sections showing the pope at various ages and times in his life, some flattering and others less so, but as he was only human it is good to see him in various human poses and situations. The overall message is that Pope John Paul changed the papacy quite dramatically and it explains how. I guess it depends on your own personal views to see whether you feel those changes were positive or negative, but this book goes some way in helping you make that choice. A good read, with some interesting ideas to explore and recommended for a more balanced view of Catholicism and the papacy rather than the glossy image portrayed by the Vatican and it's supporters.

Feel free to check out my blog which can be found on my profile page.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Papacy too far. 8 Nov 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I never was won over by Pope John Paul II and this book confirmed my opinions, authoritarian, centralising and conservative who probably should have retired some years before he died. The book is well written and as far as I could see well researched. It won't appeal to the many but for those of us who felt that John Paul's pontificate was in a certain sense damaging and depressing, they will find they are not alone.
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