"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Friday, December 10, 2010

Pope John Paul II

Now that more than half a decade has passed since Pope John Paul II died, we may be able slowly to get a more clear-headed assessment of his papacy. Certainly we know things today (e.g. the Marcial Maciel madness that went unchecked) that, at the very least, ought to give the "santo subito" mob pause for a penitential silence.

The pontificate attracted a considerable number of biographers, almost all of whom wrote utter bollocks. The only biography that was largely reliable (though occasionally prone to editorializing and a touch of hagiography) was George Weigel's Witness to Hope : The Biography of Pope John Paul II, which first appeared in 1999. Now Weigel, having had access to new materials, has published a successor volume:

The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II -- The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy 

Certainly Eastern Christians have many reasons to be grateful for the late pope's many efforts, not least in Ut Unum Sint, to advance East-West unity. Not everything he did, however, was welcomed by Eastern Christians; in some areas serious mistakes were made, giving Eastern Christians occasion once more to explain that "It's not the pope we fear but the pope's helpers!" Andriy Chirovsky, the editor-in-chief of Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies, in his editorial in 2005 shortly after the pope's death, wrote a very perceptive and balanced assessment, summing up the strengths and weaknesses of the pontificate from an Eastern Christian perspective. We shall see whether that assessment needs to be revisited in light of what Weigel has unearthed and written. I look forward to reading this and seeing it reviewed in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies. 

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