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Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II

4.35  ·  Rating Details ·  1,889 Ratings  ·  89 Reviews
The Definitive Biography of Pope John Paul II

Witness to Hope is the authoritative biography of one of the singular figures -- some might argue the singular figure -- of our time. With unprecedented cooperation from John Paul II and the people who knew and worked with him throughout his life, George Weigel offers a groundbreaking portrait of the Pope as a man, a thinker, an
Paperback, 1056 pages
Published April 8th 2005 by Harper Perennial (first published October 4th 1999)
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Michael Gerald
Jul 14, 2013 Michael Gerald rated it it was amazing
"Are you ready? Let's go."

"Yes, ma."

It was a Sunday, January 15, 1995. I was twelve years old. Pope John Paul II was in the Philippines for his second visit, and my mother and I were going to the World Youth Day Mass at Rizal Park in Manila.

We went to the park in the early morning, and it was a sea of humanity. There is a famous photo of the papal helicopter arriving, with the gargantuan crowd beneath it. It was as if the park itself was made of humanity. It was later estimated that up to five m
Jim Hale
Jan 23, 2014 Jim Hale rated it it was amazing
One of the finest and most important biographies in understanding the last half of the 20th century. Weigel is known as conservative Catholic intellectual, but in this book he demonstrates tremendous storytelling skills. And what a story! I am not Catholic, but Pope John Paul II was a constant presence in my life for three decades. Weigel is more than equal to the task of documenting this remarkable man's life and times. This is a first-rate biography.
Webster Bull
Jan 12, 2016 Webster Bull rated it it was amazing
Shelves: faith
If, like me, you have had Weigel’s massive biography of John Paul II on your book shelf for years without cracking it, you might consider the 9-hour, 15-minute audio abridgment, as I did. It is jaw-dropping, without wrist-wrenching.

Simply to review the times, and the accomplishments within his times, of JP II is a great history lesson. You cannot put down this book in any form without agreeing that the recently canonized Polish pope was history-making.

Weigel completed this biography in 1998, on
Par Donahue
Jan 17, 2013 Par Donahue rated it it was amazing
This 900 page book is quite a read! I spent 6 months reading it a couple of years ago, and it was worth every minute I put into it! It combines European history since the end of WWI, church history, and the life of JPII. There are brief reviews of his many encyclicals, his writings from Vatican II, and many of his other written words.

George Weigel is a phenomenal writer. If I hadn't known the story I would have thought it was a piece of fiction.

If you have not read this book do yourself a favo
Doreen Petersen
Jan 29, 2015 Doreen Petersen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion
What can I possibly say about the subject matter of this book that hasn't been said many, many times over. Saint John Paul II is truly one of God's Blessed People. May sound strange but when he was elected Pope you just knew he was destined for greatness far beyond what any of us could hope for. I pray every day to him and my prayers never go unanswered. For anyone interested in the Catholic religion of John Paul II this is a must read.
Christian Geirsson
Mar 25, 2016 Christian Geirsson rated it liked it
A no more definitive biographical account could one ask for, "Witness to Hope" (or "Witness to Grope," as my sardonic brother said years ago) goes into extraordinary detail into the John Paul's theological, philosophical, personal, and ecclesiastical agendas, providing an almost completely chronological narrative of his 20 years in the papal office at the time of the writing. What this authoritative biography lacks compared to today's famously successful biographers (McCullough, Goodwin-Kerns, ...more
Nov 06, 2012 Brent rated it really liked it
Witness to Hope is a monumental work by George Weigel, and is put - along with The Civil War: A Narrative - into a special category of books that I have read. They are books of serious matters and are books of serious weight as well. I dropped this book from 5 to 4 stars only because its length and subject matter required two reading efforts - separated by a few months - to complete.

The narrative of Poland under the Nazis, of the suffering of many groups (Jews, Christians, priests, professionals
Jun 02, 2012 Bryan rated it it was amazing
Witness to Hope is a wonderful, detailed biography of Blessed John Paul II. Not only does it describe all of the work that he accomplished during his pontificate, it also gave an insight into the motivation behind so many of his actions. Some may consider this book overly kind to the Pope, but as someone who grew up during the JPII generation, I gained a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for the Holy Father.
Jun 09, 2010 Ryan rated it really liked it
No better history lesson on the 20th century than to study the remarkable life of JPII. The best thing about this book is Weigel gives an introductory summary of all of JP's writings... brilliant writings we will be unpacking for centuries!
May 01, 2011 deeyn rated it it was amazing
"His first book, on the ethics of married life, raises more than one clerical eyebrow by its celebration of human sexuality as a gift of God for the sanctification of husband and wife." You won't hear such view from secular media!
Czarny Pies
Sep 19, 2014 Czarny Pies rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Catholics and anyone interested in the History of the Catholic Church
Shelves: european-history
Witness to Hope is the authorized biography of John Paul II (Karol Woytyla) written by a former theology professor and prolific writer on Church issues. It is a stunning work that benefits from several important factors:

-1- the author was allowed to interview John Paul II personally on six occasions
-2- he had access to individuals inside John Paul's inner circle at the Vatican on an "as needed basis"
-3- Jean Paul's former teaching colleagues at the Catholic University of Lublin and his friends
Brian S
May 04, 2010 Brian S rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Finally made it through this one, have to admit with a bit of skimming. Early on in this JPII biography George Weigel laments the fact that the media so often portrays the goings on in John Paul II’s world from a purely political viewpoint, when in reality, while certainly having a political role, the pope was primarily motivated by the spiritual aspect of his office. Nevertheless, this biography reads as a chronology of the political forays of the now late pope. Never ending accounts of the ...more
Aug 22, 2014 John rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spiritual
An eye-opening biography of the life of Pope John Paul II -- it is a tapestry of the life of Pope John Paul II that weaves the 'threads of his life on the cloth of the world stage'. It progresses from his childhood and youth in totalitarian and Nazi controlled Poland, to his rise through the ranks of the Church through his role in resolving many world conflicts, including his historical involvement in the 'demise of Communism'. Weigel weaves his story with JP II's encyclicals and other writings ...more
Bobby Krueger
I first read Weigel's biography of St. John Paul II as a freshman in college. Young, naive, wet behind the ears, I understood very little of the political and philosophical implications of the life of this remarkable man. Still, the book made an impression on me and John Paul II became one of my personal heroes.

Almost 10 years later, with seminary and four years of priesthood under my belt, returning to this book has been a profound spiritual experience. Beyond heroic, JPII was a man convinced
Elise Conner
Jun 18, 2012 Elise Conner rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
I must admit, this book was extremely daunting in the beginning. But after two chapters, I never wanted it to end and couldn't stop telling people about it.

George Weigel's book is a treasure, recounting the truly awesome life of one of the greatest men of the 20th century. With each vignette, this book gave me a greater understanding of how truly radical Blessed John Paul II was in the Church's history, challenged me to think on a different moral level, and inspired me to live a theology heavil
Apr 21, 2013 Joseph rated it really liked it
Witness to hope is a well-researched and comprehensive biography of John Paul II. It does a learned job in providing backgrounds to the political and social climates covered in Karol Wojtyla's past. This gives a feel for the tension and precarious balances present in a World War II-era Eastern Europe (Poland) and Cold War-era Western Europe (Rome). This also allows for a context and understanding of those times and what living in those eras would have felt like.

At times, however, the book reads
Alex Walker
Mar 27, 2012 Alex Walker rated it it was amazing
Pope John Paul II was a true inspiration to myself before I read this book. After I read it I realised how truly a great man he was.
His life story, if fiction, would be too far fetched to actually believe. From his simple upbringing in Poland he encountered the horrors of Nazi occupation and then the further horrors of a Communist regime and then to come through the end of all that and rise through the hierarchy of the Catholic Church to become Pope and be one of the most witnessed human beings
Roger Buck
Aug 09, 2014 Roger Buck rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Comprehensive and authoritative. However, Weigel does tend to skew St. John Paul a bit whenever St. John Paul becomes a little bit critical of American capitalism. I regret Weigel's inability to see beyond his own American culture, but the book is fantastic otherwise. An American with a broader outlook was Cardinal Avery Dulles. And his fine study of St. JPII can help to balance Weigel. My review of Dulles' book here …
Frank Kelly
The official biography of John Paul the Great. It is as much a biography of the man as it is an explanation of his revolutionary theology and philosophy -- one which has begun to shake the foundations of they way we look at each other. Weigel's book is deep, thick and a challenge to read (five to ten pages a day can leave one plumbing new heights of philosophy for ours or days). In short, a grand treatise of one of the greatest men to live in the last five hundred years. I thoroughly and highly ...more
Jun 22, 2009 Adam rated it really liked it
Shelves: religious
This was an excellent biography of Pope John Paul II. I haven't read any other John Paul II books so I don't really have anything to compare it too, but I would imagine this is the most comprehensive biography available. It was amazing to see how much impact he had on the entire world throughout his pontificate, and I also learned a lot about the Pope's role in the church. It was a really long book and it could get a little dry during some of the historical parts, but overall I thought it was a ...more
Susan Crockett
Not to be overly dramatic but reading this book about 8 years ago was a conversion experience for me. Just reading about his journey, his perspective, and his witness to the abundant love and faithfulness of God deepened my own faith. Half way through the book I realized that even if my own doubts surface, I can believe because this man believes and I believe in him. His witness also renewed my love for the Church because I knew if such a man was chosen to lead, truly the Spirit is protecting ...more
Mar 27, 2007 Conrad rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
There's a lot to admire about the guy, and every single thing that there is gets mentioned at least three times here, with almost nothing to countervail it. Clearly, this book isn't your go-to for objectivity. That said, it did make me like the Pope a lot more. Not just for his vigorous resistance against Nazism, the Nazi sympathizers in the church, and the Soviets. He also rescinded the 500-year-old encyclical that declared that the sun revolved around the earth, which earns him a couple of ...more
Andrew Waring
May 08, 2013 Andrew Waring rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a great book about an incredible man! The things that JP II lived through and influenced are astounding. He lived through WWII as a young man, was a priest/bishop/cardinal/pope during the Cold War, and then continued to influence the world throughout the end of the 20th century. Not only was this a biography, but a thorough history of Catholicism and the world. It's amazing to read of predictions that John Paul made in the early ninety's that have come true, and issues that he fought ...more
Pete Iseppi
Feb 19, 2013 Pete Iseppi rated it really liked it
It took me quite a while to get through this book, but it was well worth the effort. What an amazing man Pope JPII was. Even if you're not a Catholic or even a Christian, you have to admire the effort that this man put into living and spreading his faith. The miles traveled, the numerous writings, surviving the Nazi occupation of Poland during WWII and then the Communist Government thereafter. Pope JPII raised the bar for future Popes. He was truly a giant of the 20th century, and his impact ...more
Jeff Cann
Aug 21, 2012 Jeff Cann rated it really liked it
Not for the faint of heart or the impatient! I gained a deeper insight into the life of a true leader of the Church. In particular, I enjoyed reading how JPIi set an example for Christian discipleship, used his influence for a greater good, and stood firm to uphold the teaching of Jesus Christ. Finally, this book gave me a new appreciation of papal encyclicals and their importance as learning resources for the faithful.
Jul 09, 2015 Pedro rated it it was amazing
If you want to understand the challenges St. John Paul II had to face during his years as the successor of St Peter you must read this book. From the priest chastised on the tarmac at Managua's Sandino International Airport to the encounter with Mehmet Ali Agca, from the intervention in the Jesuits to the meeting with Mother Theresa, this book shows us how hard is the mission of the Pope and how hard was to John Paul II to be a Pope in those turbulent years.
Fr. Ryan Humphries
Jun 21, 2012 Fr. Ryan Humphries rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone
Weigel's tome is a must read for everyone. He loses a star because of the long and tedious hundred pages or so where Weigel recounts every conversation and letter that went into ending communism. Eck! Undoubtedly, it was important in understanding the pope, but Weigel obviously loves this stuff. 95 pages could be edited out and readers would - i think - be appreciative. Otherwise, it's an amazing work that ought to be on every bookshelf.
Jun 12, 2008 Karina rated it it was amazing
I read this as a protestant intrigued by the cultural impact that this man was making in the world at large. It called me to carefully examine my assumptions about Catholocism as a whole. What an inspirational human being. I you have read the pope's writings you may agree that Mr. Weigel I feel made his subject's mind and heart more accessible than John Paul could have done himself.
Oct 28, 2012 Sue rated it liked it
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
Although I enjoyed reading this book and learning what an amazing man he was, I just couldn't get through the whole thing. VERY long book and I felt it got bogged down with too many politics. I was more interested in his philosophies which I got out of the first half of the book. Maybe some day I'll go back to it, but I needed a change up.
Peter Galamaga
Oct 27, 2013 Peter Galamaga rated it liked it
An incredible story about one of the most important people of the last century. 3 stars because I felt that it got a little repetitive near the end and came a little close to hagiographic.
Also - I found the audiobook version quite engaging and easy to follow. I think that reading it would have been a challenge.
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American author and political and social activist. Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Weigel was the Founding President of the James Madison Foundation.

Each summer, Weigel and several other Catholic intellectuals from the United States, Poland, and across Europe conduct the Tertio Millennio Seminar on the Free Society in Krakow, in which they and an assortment of
More about George Weigel...

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“If moral relativism was legally absolutized in the name of tolerance, basic rights were also relativized and the door was open to totalitarianism.” 2 likes
“young—never settle for less than the spiritual and moral grandeur of which you’re capable, with the help of God’s grace.” 1 likes
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