Karol Jozef Wojtyla -2005) Served as Head Book Review

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¶ … Karol Jozef Wojtyla (1920-2005) served as Head of the World Catholic Church as Pope John Paul II from October 1978 until his death. He was the second longest serving Pope in recorded history, the only Polish Pope, and the first non-Italian Pope since the 16th century. As Pontiff, most scholars see him as one of the most influential and compassionate leaders of the 20th century -- in a number of ways, he was instrumental in helping to end communism in Eastern Europe, improving relations between the Catholic Church and other denominations, travelling to over 129 countries and under his emphasis on the universal call toward holiness, beatified and canonized more than the combined total of his predecessors during the last five hundred years (Gertz, 2003).

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There are a number of books and articles written about John Paul II. Many focus on a strict biography of his life, many on his actions as a Pontiff, and a number of analyses of his views and doctrinal stance regarding religious teaching. Ray Flynn wrote a different tract about Pope John Paul II. Flynn served as the U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican from 1993-1996, and was the Mayor of Boston, a heavily Catholic city, from 1984-1993. For this publication, Flynn teamed with two additional professionals, Robin Moore who wrote The French Connection, The Green Berets, and over thirty other novels; and Jim Vrabel, a newspaper reporter and speechwriter. Together, they bring new insights into the subject; scholarly, journalistic, and political; but with the required reverence for the topic. That being said, they are not afraid of approaching the controversial ideas that the Pope held on numerous conservative religious topics. The Pope, however, emerges as a hero for mankind, continually willing to impart love and compassion even to those with whom he might disagree. Overall, the Pope that emerges places himself at the very heart of the Church -- and his impact upon not only the Church, but the entire political spectrum, remains enormous.

Book Review on Karol Jozef Wojtyla (1920-2005) Served as Head Assignment

The Moral Philosophy of Pope John Paul -- For the authors, one of the things that transcends this Pope from others is not his deep spirituality, but rather his ability to remain humanly compassionate but still analytical in faith based actions. John Paul believed that every truth resulted from the birth of Christ and that natural law, whether fraught from the philosophers or simply emanating from the Bible engenders a broader world-view that moves the Catholic dogma from somewhat of an overwrought analysis to a more basic and loving approach. In this manner, John Paul was more of the Millennial Pope -- the Pope that would lead the Church into the next century, a century of hope for some, despair for many, and wonderment for all. That the public adored this Pope is a continual theme for the authors:

I'd forgotten the feeling of excitement he generates, the reaction he elicits from the crowds of people who come from all over the world to see him. "Papa! Papa! Papa! The crowd chanted. As the popemobile reached each section, people stood and waved and jumped up and down, creating throughout St. Peter's Square the equivalent of the wave you see in baseball parks in the United States. By the time the popemobile turned up the sloped, semicircular stones that form a ramp to the top steps of the basilica, everybody was on their feet, cheering (192).

However, this Pope was more than a crowd pleaser, he was an intellect with a razor sharp wit, and a man who had studied the great philosophical traditions of the Western World and was quite conversant in the various social and personal philosophies, most especially those that focused on the individual:

The term persona has been coined to signify that a man cannot be wholly contained within the concept 'individual member of the species' but that there is something more to him, a particular richness and perfection in the manner of his being, which can only be brought out by the use of the word 'person.' The emphasis on the fact that the person is a being and on the identification of the person with the concept of being among other objects which are in this way infinitely different from God should not prompt one to forget the greatness of the difference between that very particular being which is the person and all other beings which are merely things. The other things participate in the perfection of the world only through their realization of their species' being, and the individual existence which comes to be and passes away in time acquires a degree of permanence through the endurance of the species. The species represents a higher level of perfection than the individual, and the individual achieves its perfection in the world by being a member of the species. Things are different for human life, for it achieves a particular participation of being through its intelligent and free adherence to the good. The human being can know and love the truth, and as a person he can turn to the person of God Himself and enter into a personal relationship with Him (Wojtya in Buttiglione, 1997, 86).

This was not a man who could only see things in black and white, but rather someone who read, studied, and debated various aspects of human nature in order to more appropriately serve his constituents.

The Assassination and Aftermath- On May 13, 1981, as the Pope entered St. Peter's Square, he was shot by a Turkish gunman Mehmet Ali Agca. Agca seriously wounded the Holy Father, and he required over five hours of surgery to repair massive internal injuries that almost resulted in his death. Throughout the ordeal, John Paul remained steadfast in his belief that he was saved by Our Lady of Fatima. Two days after Christmas 1983, John Paul visited the incarcerated Agca who was serving a life sentence. The Pope would never say what was shared; only that he pardoned and forgave him for his lapse. Later research proved that the assassination was most likely done at the request of the Russian Intelligence Services, who remained angry that much of Eastern Europe was lost because of the Pope's tireless campaigning. What amazed Flynn, and continues to amaze thousands each year who visit the Vatican is that this Pope could so seriously and earnestly forgive the person that attempted to take his life. The Pope often commented that it was easy to minister to, and to forgive, those who are nice, positive, and optimistic. However, for those who might be belligerent, angry, or misguided, it is quite difficult to forgive and remain positive -- yet that is what Christianity is, said the Pope, love for all with no exceptions. One can despise the actions of an individual, but, says Flynn, one of the most important messages from this Pope was that all things are fleeting, and there is a certain joy in discovering the ultimate complexity, which, of course, is God (190-98).

However, the Pope was just as comfortable speaking out on human issues, although some saw his compassion getting in the way of doctrine at times. He was an advocate of social justice, the forgiveness of the economic debt loaded to the Third World, yet was a staunch believer in the good that capitalism can provide, "All must work so that the economic system in which we live does not upset the fundamental order of the priority of work over capital. Globalization is a reality present today in every area of human life, but it is a reality that must be managed wisely. Solidarity too must be globalized" (198).

Being the Ambassador to the Vatican, Flynn had a unique opportunity to observe this Pope in a number of situations. What the Pope saw as moral issues, homosexuality and abortion for instance, were political and social issues to leaders of the developed world. The Pope, however, was adamant about loving the sinner but abhorring the sin -- and understanding that the Church has overused the word sin, historically, to cast doubt and derision for political policies about which the Vatican simply disagreed. The Church is 2,000 years old, and there is a difference between the word of God and the word of Man, he would say, how many over the course of 2,000 years have forgotten their path…. Instead, what is important is "to renew our Commitment to Christ" and his teachings (179).

This book is not a religious tome, nor is it a critique. It is not scholarly, although it is well researched and documented. Instead, unlike many other books about larger than life people, it allows us to see the man behind the office, and to understand that the very greatness of this Pope was his humility and humanness, a fact he never forgot. This is an important book for those of all faiths -- for it really transcends the idea of religiosity. No one can deny the effect this pope had on almost… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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