Universal Father: A Life of Pope John Paul II

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9780747582410: Universal Father: A Life of Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II is now universally considered to have been one of the great leaders of the twentieth century and possibly the most politically influential pope since St Peter. His achievements are well documented, yet he once said, 'I can only be understood from the inside.' In this vivid and accessible living portrait, O'Connor investigates the inner man, including Karol Wojtyla's life before he became Pope and his friendships with men and women, subtly analysing the Pope's own poems, plays and philosophical works for clues as to what made him tick. It also dramatically follows his life, from his birth in Poland in 1920, through the losses that shaped his childhood, the assassination attempt in 1981, and his great public confrontations on the world stage, right up until his death in April 2005.

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Review:

If God is in the details, He’s surely present here. Layer by rich layer, author and prolific English biographer Garry O’Connor chronologically tells the story of the extraordinary life of the late Pope John Paul II. O’Connor shows that to understand the man is first to understand Poland and its history. He introduces us to young Karol Wojtyla’s family members and their numerous tragedies, and shows how his friendships and education shaped Wojtyla for his future role.

We come to know the colorful, multi-faceted future pope through his correspondence, his plays, and his poetry. By turns, Pope John Paul II is shown to be actor, philosopher, athlete, musician, comic book hero, mystic. Wojtyla’s call to the priesthood is compelling, when juxtaposed against the horrors of war and deprivation. As Wojtyla sweats in a quarry or shovels out old prison latrines, it lends context for his future knack of identifying with the common laborer. After Wojtyla assumes the papacy, O’Connor provides a window into the Holy Father’s daily life, his travels, his admirers and his detractors. He also examines the Pope’s controversial battles against women’s ordination, contraception, abortion, and materialism. The chronology concludes right before John Paul II’s death in 2005.

If the loss of one of the greatest leaders in religion of the twentieth century inspires readers to take a deeper look at Pope John Paul II’s life, this book will offer a satisfying, comprehensive tour of the outer events and inner life of a complex and beloved man.--Cindy Crosby

From the Inside Flap:

UNIVERSAL FATHER: A Life of John Paul II

Pope John Paul II is universally considered one of the great leaders of the twentieth century for his resolute resistance to Soviet Communism, for his steadfast opposition to war, and for opening up the papacy to ordinary people. He will go down in history not only as the third longest-serving pope, but possibly the most politically influential of all 305 popes and antipopes since St. Peter.

Born in Poland in 1920, Karol Wojtyla's early life experiences were of intense love and intense loss: he was eight when his mother died, twelve when his older brother died of scarlet fever, and twenty when his severe but loving father died during the Nazi occupation. An athlete, a gifted poet, playwright and actor, by 1944, after a near fatal accident, Wojtyla was studying for the priesthood in secret. So began a lifelong quest to understand good and evil in the human heart.

Five years in the making, Universal Father is a vivid and scrupulously researched portrait of this extraordinary man. Beginning with Wojtyla's trying childhood and his early years as a priest in rural Poland, and continuing on to his travels to Rome, and his subsequent papal reign, O'Connor's biography is unparalleled for the attention it also gives to the inner man―including a subtle analysis of the pope's own poems, plays, and philosophical works. An exploration of both the personal tragedies in the pope's life, among them the assassination attempt in 1981, and the public triumphs, such as the great public confrontations with Soviet Communism in his native Poland, Universal Father is a revealing and profoundly moving testament.

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