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A Pope and a President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century

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Even as historians credit -Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II with hastening the end of the Cold War, they have failed to recognize the depth or significance of the bond that developed between the two leaders. Acclaimed scholar and bestselling author Paul Kengor changes that. In this fascinating book, he reveals a singular bond--which included a spiritual connection between the Catholic pope and the Protestant president--that drove the two men to confront what they knew to be the great evil of the twentieth century: Soviet communism. Reagan and John Paul II almost didn't have the opportunity to forge this relationship: just six weeks apart in the spring of 1981, they took bullets from would-be assassins. But their strikingly similar near-death experiences brought them close together--to Moscow's dismay. A Pope and a President is the product of years of research. Based on Kengor's tireless archival digging and his unique access to Reagan insiders, this book reveals captivating new details on a relationship that changed history.

624 pages, Hardcover

Published May 1, 2017

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About the author

Paul Kengor

23 books102 followers
Author and politicial science professor.

He is executive director of The Center for Vision & Values, a Grove City College think-tank/policy center.

Kengor has focused much of his work on Ronald Reagan, faith and the presidency, conservative politics, the Cold War, the communist movement, and Catholicism.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 84 reviews
Profile Image for Sarah.
237 reviews1,088 followers
May 15, 2018
Paul Kengor’s exhaustive Cold War chronicle focuses mainly on the Pope and President in the title, Pope St. John Paul II and US President Ronald Reagan. But larger than life though these two are, the story Kengor here tells is bigger even than them. Other key roles go to FDR, Pope Pius XII (previously Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli), Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, the Kennedys, Reagan Administration members including Bill Casey and Frank Shakespeare, and USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev. It is the story of the bloody upheaval of the twentieth century, which Kengor presents as a narrative, beginning with WWI and concluding with the collapse of the Berlin Wall.

The book contains reams of information—both about JPII and Reagan as individuals, and about their efforts, alone and combined, to draw back the Iron Curtain and reunite East and West. Kengor manages to balance hundreds of threads in this tapestry of an account. While the book focuses more on its Pope and President as geopolitical giants than as men, I still feel like I got to know these two quite a bit better from reading it. Likewise, I came away with a much clearer understanding of the Cold War.

The only problem with this book is that Kengor assumes the reader is either Catholic or well-versed in, and friendly to, Catholic lore of the last century, especially regarding Marian apparitions. He uses the appearance of Our Lady of Fátima and the solar phenomena that occurred there in 1918 as the lynchpin of his story. I’m Catholic myself, with a special devotion to Our Lady of Fátima, so I’m quite inclined to agree with him—I just worry that leading off with that incident might greatly confuse non-Catholic readers. That said, I would suggest the non-Catholic reader do a little reading on Marian apparitions before starting this book. It would be impossible to understand Kengor’s perspective here unless one is absolutely clear on what Catholics (and others including Reagan) believe did and did not happen at Fátima in 1917.
Profile Image for Cece.
160 reviews25 followers
July 31, 2017
I'd always assumed the Cold War would be less interesting than, say, WWI or WWII... but this "war that wasn't" had just as much plotting and maneuvering as any war with an official declaration.

This book was absolutely fascinating. I only wish I could have finished it more quickly! JPII and RR are unsung heroes in most of the world with regard to their roles in the collapse of communism. I was enthralled to learn of their strategies and influence in dismantling such a devious regime. They are both fascinating people and I loved discovering more about their histories.

Not to mention: Given today's political climate, this couldn't be a more interesting read. I really recommend this to anyone with an interest in Fatima, JPII or international history/politics.
733 reviews1 follower
October 1, 2017
Anyone remotely interested in the Cold War would love this well researched book. John Paul II and Reagan were the primary reasons for the fall of Communism. This book will let you in on every detail - sometimes repeating itself- but it was fascinating. If you are a student of modern history this book is for you.
Profile Image for Chris.
371 reviews
July 2, 2017
Very repetitive book. The book should have been cut in half. Not that it wasn't an interesting premise - that together President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II were instrumental in bringing about the demise of the Soviet Union and Communism. This is common knowledge and you could make a good case that Margaret Thatcher could be included with the other two. But I think Kengor oversells his analysis by using circumstantial evidence that Reagan was a borderline Catholic with a special reverence for the Blessed Mother. While this might be true I think Reagan is a tough nut to crack as to what made him tick. Other authors have had a difficult time trying to get to know him - Edmund Morris ruined his credibility as a writer by writing a Reagan biography - and a 500 page book about two men who met only five times does not qualify President Reagan for canonization as a Catholic saint. The Gipper would probably read this, give that grin of his and say, "Well, there they go again." That's why he was so great. That one definitive book about Reagan has yet to be written and I think he's having a good chuckle (in Heaven) watching writers try.
Profile Image for Sammy.
27 reviews1 follower
December 23, 2017
This is very well researched and offers a lot of new insights on the relationship between these two incredible men of history. What I learned was very insightful and inspiring, which is why I'm giving it 3 stars. The writing style (repetitive and verbose at times, with a tendency to elevate the author's personal opinions to an excessive degree) was a bit tiring by the end. But the insights are extremely valuable. Certainly worth the read.
Profile Image for Ken Madsen.
41 reviews5 followers
September 23, 2017
Mr. Kengor tells the story of the unreported relationship between Ronald Reagan and St. John Paul II. Though they met in person only 5 times their "kindred souls" worked together to bring the downfall of the "Evil Empire"- communism in the Soviet Union. The author spent over 10 years researching the book. This is definitely a Catholic perspective on the relationship and it helps if you are familiar with the Catholic faith. (I'm Catholic).

One fascinating story is the involvement of the Soviet government in the assassination attempt on St. JP II. Anecdotally, I asked a number of my friends if they knew the Communist government was involved in the assassination attempt of Pope JP II. Not one of them knew. One reason, which Mr. Kengor spends time on throughout the book, is the infiltration of Soviet agents in Western media, particularly in the US. We know of this now through the dossiers and records absconded by Communist defectors from the KGB and Eastern bloc countries. One such agent was able to get a Fulbright scholarship at Columbia and find himself on the editorial staff at the NY Times. The US media was more than willing to regurgitate Communist storylines that implicated everyone else, including the CIA.

Mr. Kengor parallels the lives of both Reagan and St. JP II and the similarities that brought them together to fulfill as Reagan called it the DP - Divine Plan. Reagan realized as early as 1979 that the newly elected Polish Pope could be instrumental in ending communism. But, the author ties the demise to an even more unexpected event - the miracles and secrets of Fatima. Even if you're not a person of faith, you would have to agree the circumstances and coincidences of the demise of Communism as retold by Mr. Kengor defy pure chance.

I thought I knew a lot about Ronaldus Maximus and St. John Paul II. Mr Kengor, in this very readable book, brings untold stories about perhaps the true reason for the ending of Communism - the Divine Plan.
10 reviews1 follower
June 5, 2017
Wonderful history

A very carefully researched scholarly history of President Reagan and Pope John Paul II, and how their relationship brought an end to the USSR. Which I consider a miracle; and if anyone, besides these two men, say they knew the USSR would collapse they are full of baloney. President Reagan and Saint Pope John Paul II, and many many others prayed for this to happen, but even they did not know it would occur in the amazing way it did.
Profile Image for Ron.
Author 1 book133 followers
October 11, 2020
“If you are good at disinformation, you can get away with anything.”

Three stars is a gift, based on the good story hidden among the twaddle. As published, this text was written by a Roman Catholic for Roman Catholics, not a dispassionate pursuit of the facts. Non-Roman Catholics will have to sort through a lot of religious detail.

“This book is a work of historical investigation, not a religious apologetic.”

Not an apologetic; propaganda. His Marian hagiography may be well received by Roman Catholics but strike other Christians as blasphemous idolatry. Often interrupts the narrative to note which day of the Catholic calendar each event happens on and give its history.

“The point is you must understand the role of the ‘secrets of Fatima’ to gain a full understanding of how the relationship between the pope and the president changed the world.”

Glacial pace; no rabbit trail too small to be pursued. Quotes are often preceded and followed by explanatory text, as if Kengor doesn’t trust the reader to understand. Three books are interleaved: how Pope John Paul II and President Ronald Reagan won the Cold War; how the Soviets tried to kill the pope and did kill many other clerics; and how Catholics believe the Virgin Mary guided and empowered the process. Wanted to like this more but couldn’t.

“‘This book needs to be short; no more than 100-200 pages.’ … I handed [his editor] a manuscript well over a thousand pages.”

Should have been 200 pages. Fast and loose with citations, disguising opinions and quoting himself. There’s lots of good material among the religious musings and opinion, but its not well presented. Documents role of Franklin D Roosevelt causing the Cold War and the New York Times complicity in covering up the Soviet role in the pope’s shooting.

“’Atheist education is an inalienable constituent part’ of the ‘transforming force’ of Marxist-Leninist ideology.” (Pravda)
1 review
January 28, 2022
Awesome book of the fall of communism and how two great leaders made it happen.
Profile Image for Candy.
208 reviews2 followers
September 6, 2017
Amazing account of the little know bond between Pope John Paul II and President Ronald. Their lives had many similarities, including attempts on both of their lives just days apart which forged in them an even closer bond. Many "goosebump" moments in this book.
Profile Image for Arthur.
318 reviews12 followers
July 29, 2020
An epic that lays a foundation for future generations to research the diplomacy and worldviews shared between Saint Pope John Paul II and President Ronald Reagan.

This book gives a thorough explanation of how the events at Fatima inspired the Pope, and played a central theme in Papal assassination attempt and the consecration of Russia. The effect the Polish pope had on Catholicism in Poland (which was severely repressed due to atheistic Communism being in control).

The religious side of Reagan (often unreported or severely under reported) and how it all came together in his support for freedom of religion inside of the Iron Curtain, and worldwide.

Of course other topics are covered such as Gorbachev being a closet Christian and the effects that may have had on religious freedom in the Soviet Union and its ultimate dissolution.

This book is more than just an excellent biography of two great leaders, it's about their friendship with one another and how it shaped the world. This thoroughly researched book is absolutely recommended for anyone interested in Cold War diplomacy, President Reagan, or Pope Saint JP2.
Profile Image for Carson J.
3 reviews6 followers
January 12, 2020
Wonderful book that describes the important roles that these two great men played in bringing down communism. I especially enjoyed the similarities that Paul Kengor displays in the lives of Reagan and St. John Paul II.
Profile Image for Anna.
106 reviews11 followers
April 14, 2022
I enjoyed parts of this, but found the author's writing style to be overly sensational at times.
Profile Image for Tom Rowe.
1,036 reviews5 followers
August 24, 2020
This book started out very interesting. Then it bogged down with lots of repetition and stories about tracking down sources. It presents a very Catholic view on Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II. The prophesies at Fatima and the Madonna front and center in this story. It could have been 1/3 to 1/2 as long and been very interesting. I did like getting this unique perspective on history.
54 reviews
March 13, 2019
A fascinating book. And an excellent reminder that a few men acting on principle and with determination can change the world. But it takes uncommon courage to recognize true evil and to act with dedication and purpose. This non- Christian is grateful that John Paul II and President Reagan found common ground and strength of conviction to confront what truly was an Evil Empire.

While Kenzie strikes me as more of an awestruck commentator than a historian, he does present a good case for his protagonists.
Profile Image for Wren.
31 reviews
June 18, 2017
If you believe that Ronald Reagan was a good and honorable President, you ain't seen nothing yet. This book lays out how he and Pope John Paul II worked together -- along with the Divine Plan -- to bring down the USSR and communism throughout Eastern Europe. My respect for both men is now greater and more definable after reading about their mission, as learned from the latest discovered documents and interviews. What a great story.
18 reviews
May 22, 2022
A fantastic narrative of the deep bond between President Reagan and JPII. Our world is much better off thanks to these two men. Paul Kengor does a superb job at exposing the heinous behavior of the Soviets (directed at Catholics) and keeps to his theme of showing how Regean and JPII expelled that evil from Poland.

219 reviews1 follower
June 8, 2022
Kengor professionally weaves the lives of John Paul II and Reagan together and stresses the importance of their relationship, the miracles surrounding their lives, the secret combinations behind the assassination attempt on the Pope, and their combined efforts in defeating Soviet communism. Carefully researched and cited. (Audio version)

Some standout quotes and notes:
- "Every human being is unique and unrepeatable." JPII, Christmas Day, 1978. Prologue.
- Reasons why the Mary apparition appeared in Portugal (a place dear to my heart) at Fatima, of all places: see Ch. 1.
- In June 1913, Lenin secured an unconditional annulment of all laws against abortions and by 1920, abortion was free and legal to Russian women, which caused a skyrocketing of abortions throughout Russia. Ch. 2.
- Of the 657 churches in Moscow that existed on the eve of the 1917 Revolution, only 100-150 remained by 1976, and only 46 still held services. Ch. 2.
- The Bolsheviks stole from Russian Moscow churches (prior to 11/21/1922) 1,220 lbs of gold, 828,275 lbs of silver, 35,670 diamonds, 536 lbs of gemstones, 3,115 gold rubles, 19,155 silver rubles, 1,902 various precious objects, and 71,762 unspecified valuables, and completely destroyed the Catholic Church in the Soviet Union. Ch. 2.
- American members of the Communist Party saw themselves as subservient to Moscow and Soviet control and swore a loyalty oath to Moscow. Ch. 2.
- Were it not for the Polish victory against the early Russian Soviets after WWI, the Soviet domination of Eastern Europe might have occurred 25 years earlier. Ch. 3.
- In a near-death experience around 15 years old, a friend pointed what he thought was an unloaded gun at JPII and narrowly missed hitting the future Pope. Ch. 3.
- JPII believed that God allows bad things to happen so good things can come from them. Ch. 3.
- During his 7 years as a lifeguard, Reagan saved the lives of 77 individuals, all for $15-16 per week! Ch. 3.
- Pope Pius XI coined several phrases against communism and socialism:
- "Socialism is irreconcilable with Christianity."
- "'Religious socialism' or 'Christian socialism' are contradictory terms."
- In 1937, the Vatican officially called communism as a "collectivistic terrorism..." and a
"pernicious plaque..." and a "Satanic scourge." Ch. 4.
- Pope Leo XIII said of communists, "They leave nothing untouched or whole which, by both human and divine laws, has been wisely decreed for the health and beauty of life..." Ch. 4.
- The stance of the Catholic Church was that "the priests' first loving gift to his neighbors is to serve truth and refute truth in any of its forms..." Ch. 4.
- American Catholic bishop Fulton Sheen demonstrated that Marx was first an atheist, and then a communist. Communism was merely the political expression of his atheism. Ch. 4.
- Sheen said that communism was not inspired by the spirit of Christ, but by the spirit of the serpent, the "mystical body of the anti-Christ." Ch. 4.
- The Catholic Church had been eminently consistent on its stance against communism over the decades. Ch. 4.
- One calculation showed that Pope JPII was instrumental in saving approx. 860,000 Jews from Nazi destruction. Ch. 7.
- "In terms of both his time and our own, Kennedy (JFK) was a conservative." Ch. 8.
- Reagan used the word 'evil' to describe the world's totalitarian communist regimes. Ch. 9.
- Vatican II taught that "authentic freedom is an exceptional sign of the divine image within man" and that "man's dignity demands that he act according to a conscious and free choice." Ch. 12.
- ** JPII said that freedom was at the same time offered to man and imposed on him as a task. It (freedom) is an attribute of a free person and in that sense, it is a gift of the Creator and an endowment of human nature and thus the lawful right of man. God is therefore the antithesis of the earthly destroyers of freedom. Ch. 12.
- "Man can do wrong precisely because he is free. That is the risk. At the same time, that is the beauty of freedom." "Freedom is given not so that man will do evil, but so that he will do good." Ch. 12.
- After being shot, Reagan began to pray for the shooter and his soul. Ch. 16.
- Once Reagan was shot, it put America on high alert and raised defense readiness. This made the Soviets call off their planned invasion/attack on Poland and prevent a hot war. Ch. 17.
- In both assassination attempts, Hinckley's bullet just missed Reagan's heart, and Ali Agca's bullet just missed JPII's main abdominal artery. Ch. 18.
- In 1984, Reagan gave a speech to the students at Fudan Univ. in Shanghai, which in part said, "We believe in the dignity of each man, woman, and child. Our entire system is founded on an appreciation of the special genius of each individual, and of his special right to make his own decisions and lead his own life." Ch. 25.
- Reagan called JPII his "closest friend," according to Nancy Reagan. Epilogue.
Profile Image for Nannette.
483 reviews16 followers
October 30, 2017
A Pope and a President
John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century
Author Paul Kengor
Narrated by James Anderson Foster
Publication date Sep 20, 2017
Running time 23 hrs 21 min
Courtesy Tantor Media

I remember the spring of 1981 well. I was a freshmen in community college. I had turned eighteen the fall before and voted in my first election. The end of March my family, friends and classmates were all shocked by the assignation attempt on President Ronald Reagan. I was too young to remember the Kennedy assassination. Six weeks later, Reagan was back at the White House and finals were looming. The assignation attempt on Pope John Paul II really hit me as a Catholic. I really did not understand why someone would try to kill the Pope. Finally thirty-six years later, author Paul Kengor supplies the answer and how Reagan factors into the events of May 13, 1981.

Kengor does a fantastic job of constructing the background that sets the stage for the partnership of President Reagan and Pope John Paul II. He explains the events of the history of the Catholic Church and Communism in Russia that are intertwined by the communist opposition to all religions. The author states that “Lenin ordered the shootings of an estimated 14,000 to 20,000 clergy and active laymen.” This book has much to offer even non-Christians or atheist. The religious content is important because it is what motivated those involved. The religious beliefs of President Reagan and Pope John Paul II are are central to the history as the communist antipathy to all religion.

Would the USSR have fallen when it did without President Reagan or Pope John Paul II? I do not think it would have. I think it was the unique unofficial partnership and true respect between the two men that facilitated the events. Without the hope Pope John Paul II gave his countrymen in Poland and other communist bloc countries, without the pressure applied by the government of the United States under President Reagan’s direction, without the same message from two perspectives from two of the most powerful men in the world, the USSR had no reason to allow the changes to happen without bloodshed. Gorbachev is quoted in the book as stating that the Pope, “did a lot to prepare for the end of the Cold war.”

The book is fascinating but the audiobook is even better. James Anderson Foster has been one of my favorite narrators for years. This is the first nonfiction I have heard him narrate. The book contains a number of names that I struggled to read and retain in the print book. With Foster narrating, I was easily able to keep the various people straight because of his clear pronunciations. His voice is easy to listen. I recommend listening to the audiobook over reading the book just for the pleasure of hearing Foster’s narration.
Profile Image for Nolan.
2,124 reviews22 followers
November 27, 2022
The author looks at the common ground between Pope John Paul II and President Reagan. I found the most value in the history of events that preceded the end of the Soviet Union. A lot of it I knew or thought I knew, but Kengor does a great job of bringing to light information I had either forgotten or never learned.

The book begins with the experience of three children in a city in Portugal in which they reported seeing the mother of Christ. They relayed messages from her. Among those messages, according to Kengor, was a warning that Russia would be a source of error or evil or whatever. Being an uninformed outsider, I’m not sure I’m getting all the nuances right on this. In any event, this experience in Portugal was apparently huge in the life of JP II. The author returns to it almost mercilessly as he moves through the book.

The book’s purpose is to demonstrate the remarkable bond that existed between the pope and Reagan. This is a bond not merely of friendship but of two men who saw the world in remarkably the same way. Would-be assassins shot them within days of each other; they each found faith albeit in different paths. Regan was fascinated by the Phatima visions as was the pope.

If you are a devout Catholic but have hesitated to read this because you fear the author will in some way trash your faith, Trust me, you have nothing to be afraid of. This book seems to drip with Catholicism, and it’s highly sympathetic to the church. No funky stories here about rogue priests, etc. If the devotion to Catholicism had been an actual substance, the parts of my book player would surely have corroded.

Kengor is a reliably conservative writer. So, there’s no way he’s going to belittle Reagan. I ultimately enjoyed this because of the dovetailing of the lives of these two men. Even scholars who dislike conservatives and Catholics tacitly agree that because of work done in unison by these two men, communism suffered and ultimately came to naught for a time at least.

I’ve always found Kengor’s writing style pleasant and easy to read. The guy who narrates the commercial audiobook does a solid all-business narration, which is what you want for this. No one tries to do a fake accent here when quotes by Pope John-Paul II appear in the text. In short, this his highly readable, and it will take time to get through it—perfecting for shortening nights and cooler temperatures.
313 reviews8 followers
October 22, 2018
It caught my full attention from the very first beginning.

It is real history and a very important piece of the 20th century, if not the most important.

It should be mandatory to read in the schools. The kids have to know what terrible damage the communists had caused to millions of human beings during the 70 years in power.

They have denied freedom, tortured and killed more than one hundred million innocent people of their own countries.

It has been the most outrage and shameful act of the 20th century. And sometimes we can still hear people speaking about communism freely.

But the communists have never repented of the terrible damage they have cost to millions of human beings. Why the political correct organizations like Universities, media etc have never demanded a declaration of repentance, regret or remorsefulness to all the people who have contributed to make such a terrible thing and to the ones who respected them for years and years. It is perhaps because they also helped communist out not being courageous enough to speak out that their political was an outrage and unacceptable.

President Reagan naming the Soviet Republic as the "Evil Empire" was crucial and very encouraging.

He called a spade a spade.

And then the Pope Joan Paul II speaking about God and freedom in all his addresses during his visits to Poland.

For the first time somebody spoke his mind about such a terrible situation.

The Pope and the President teared down the wall tanking advantage of the accession to power of Gorbachev. One was a protestant and the other a catholic, but both had a very solid faith. And we all know that faith move mountains and in this case faith moved a very big mountain.

Excellent reading that i really recommend.

624 reviews10 followers
January 6, 2019
“A Pope and A President” is the story of the cooperation between Pope John Paul II and President Reagan in bringing down the Evil Empire. What makes this tome unique is the emphasis on the common belief held by these two victims of assassination attempts that they were saved for some specific work, particularly the defeat of Communism. Clearly the Pope believed that the Virgin Mary deflected the bullet so as to save his life. A theme of the book is that both the Pope and the President were very religious and that they may have shared an interest in the Secrets of Fatima and the Blessed Virgin. An intertwined story line is the investigation that purportedly concluded that the Soviet military intelligence was behind the attack on the Pope because of the threat he posed to Communist hegemony.

Author Paul Kenger has crafted an interesting book that opens a lot of questions concerning the last efforts of the Communists to hold on to power. I do find this to be in the nature of a conspiracy theory It is based on many inferences drawn from what records show, or do not show and speculation as to what the Pope and the President might have said during their private meetings. While I do not dispute its conclusions and story line, I remain skeptical of some of the details. The reader is inclined to believe that he has been admitted to the inner sanctums of the Reagan Administration but I am not confident how much is true and how much is the author’s spin on the available facts. That said it is a very entertaining and edifying read.
Profile Image for Marlena.
18 reviews1 follower
March 4, 2021
The book was VERY repetitive and very biased. The author utilized a lot of quotes but added his own spin to them. They are buried in explanation by the author that often change the meaning of the quote itself.

The author frequently indicates that “no one else has noticed this” and then usually goes into a rant regarding information that has not been confirmed or is loosely connected to something else. Towards the end of the book the author concedes that Nancy Regan said that her husband selected Ave Maria for his funeral only because he liked the song, but the author found another source who said that it was selected because of Regan’s connection to Mary. I can’t imagine why this would be reported when even Nancy Regan (supported by others who knew Regan well) gave one interpretation, but another source told something different. Why would any author think that someone other than Regan’s wife would know the true meaning behind a selection like that? Other connections seemed farfetched and gave the idea that they were only included only when they worked well. Like multiple things happening on certain days of the year, which frequently seemed like a ploy to make a stronger connection between Regan and the St. Pope John Paull II. If you dig hard enough you can find things in anyone’s lives that may seem similar that happened on the same day of the week. The circumstantial evidence was overwhelming in this book and made me wonder how many truths were stretched to make everything line up in the authors eyes.
1 review
August 30, 2021
A little known Cold War story about how the Soviet Union was brought down thanks to the moral strength and perseverance of Pope John Paul II and President Ronald Reagan. The book provides fresh historical detail about their collaboration on the world stage to defeat the “evil empire” but also documents how events of the two men’s personal lives so closely paralleled each other. It’s as if a spiritual bond linked the two men from the very beginning. Never was this more prominent than when each survived an assassination attempt only months apart in 1981. As the story documents, both men considered this more than just a coincidence of history. Rather, they shared with each other that they thought it a calling to end Soviet Communism as part of a Divine Plan, which ultimately spared their lives. On top of all this is the utterly fascinating mystical aspect to this story; how so much about the end of the Cold War was related to (and prophesied by) the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Fatima in 1913 — an event of intense interest for both men. A Pope and a President is a thoroughly enjoyable read, though I would say longer than it need be due to a frustrating repetition of information. That said, I still enthusiastically recommend this insightful telling about the last act of the Cold War. A tip of the fedora to author Paul Kengor for a marvelously researched and annotated book.
Profile Image for Joseph Serwach.
151 reviews10 followers
May 19, 2017
The Saint and the President: The alliance that destroyed communism

In 1989, Ronald Reagan pointed to a framed photo of Pope John Paul II in his California home and explained the Polish pontiff was "My Best Friend." Like Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, their friendship was forged by historic events and their place in history and together, they changed the world. More dramatically, Reagan and JPII were shot six weeks apart, miraculously survived and were convinced God has saved them for a special purpose (to relegate the Evil Empire to the Ash Heap of History). This amazing and detailed book, building on earlier masterpieces like "The Second Greatest Story Ever Told" by Michael Gaitley and Newt Gingrich's "Nine Days That Changed the World," authoritatively documents the story of atheistic authoritarianism vs. faith and freedom, Fatima, the 20th century and Reagan and the Pope, showing how the lives of the Polish Catholic and the American Protestant paralleled each other, how they overlapped and intersected. Read this book. You won't regret it.
Profile Image for Lana.
281 reviews2 followers
July 28, 2018
This book is about two of my heroes, Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II. My only complaint about the book is its length- it was almost 600 pages and definitely could have used some editing! But it was a fascinating read detailing their lives and the coincidences that tied them together. It also had many interesting details about Our Lady of Fátima, who predicted the assassination attempt on the Pope. As the book notes: “He survived the assassination attempt to join forces with Ronald Reagan—who also had survived a bullet, only six weeks earlier—to undermine Soviet communism in Poland and then all of Eastern Europe. As Reagan had told the pontiff, they shared the “dubious distinction” of surviving assassination attempts. When the two sat down for the first time, in the Vatican in June 1982, they confided that they felt it was nothing short of “miraculous” that they had survived. They both felt their lives had been spared for a special purpose to end atheistic communism. Together, they dedicated themselves to achieving that goal.”
184 reviews1 follower
November 6, 2021
“A Pope and A President” is the story and experiences of Pope John Paul II and Ronald Reagan, while he was President and after. This untold story is a fascinating and informational insight on how these two men bonded and drove them to confront the great evil of the 20th century of Soviet Communism.
You will get the inside story of their meeting in 1982, where the President and the Pope confided their conviction that God spared their lives for the purpose of defeating communism.
Both Reagan and John Paul almost didn’t have the opportunity to forge this relationship. In the spring of 1981 and six weeks apart, they each took bullets from would-be assassins. But their amazing near-death experiences brought them closer together—to Moscow’s dismay.
Follow along this captivating biography as to the many similarities in their childhood and adult lives as the Pope and the President formed a spiritual bond to take down communism.
I highly recommend this book to those who enjoy historical and factual events and the people who made history in the 20th century.
Profile Image for Dave Franklin.
74 reviews
February 27, 2022
Paul Kengor's thorough, albeit digressive history "The Pope and the President" is a fascinating account of the role John Paul II and Ronald Reagan played in hastening the end of the Cold War.

T.S. Eliot reminded us that, "History has many cunning passages and contrived corridors..."In this sense, Kengor's book is a footnote to "Gerontion." As if to validate Arthur Schlessinger Jr's theories with respect to the cyclical rhythms of history, Kengor elucidates the confluence of several fortuitous events that transpired in the seventies and eighties: the ascension of John Paul II in the wake of the Ostpolitic policy of Paul VI, the political rise of Margaret Thatcher- a disciple of Hayek- following the Callaghan stagnation, the Reagan revolution in response to the feckless Carter years, and finally, the Gorbachev thaw.

The book is well- documented and is a capable history of a crucial era. That said, editing could have pared this study considerably, and the first person anecdotes relegated to a foreword.
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